Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The desires of the human heart know no reason or rules

Since I'm so behind on writing reviews, I had gotten pretty good at least writing myself some notes after I finished a book. That way, when I actually got around to writing the review itself I wasn't starting from scratch on a book I hadn't touched in a couple months. Apparently I skipped right over Yoko Ogawa's Revenge with the whole note writing thing, which I finished back in November. Luckily I liked this book so it made an impression on me.

Revenge, described as eleven dark tales, are eleven interconnected short stories. The interconnections aren't all that obvious at first and it was about halfway through that I started noticing little details turning up in multiple stories. I thought about starting over again with this in mind, but I didn't because half way through already. And the stories can stand on their own, so not noticing the connection earlier didn't really change the stories.

The stories are dark, though that doesn't necessarily mean they're scary. Sometimes they're just sad or there's a general sense of unease, though you can't quite place your finger on what is wrong. And most of the stories don't really deal with revenge, so Eleven Dark Tales is probably a better title. But Revenge is zippier so fine.

The book opens with a woman waiting in a bakery to buy a strawberry shortcake. A simple, even boring, premise. The story stays quiet but slowly a sense of sadness and eeriness starts to permeate as you learn the story of this woman sitting in the empty bakery. And thus the tone is set for the rest of the stories. They all have the same sense of quiet that builds to something not quite right, certainly not what you would have expected, but that works with the story, even if it involves breaking into a former post office to grab a kiwi from one of the many boxes piled up to the ceiling. Or the woman who grows carrots in the shape of hands. Or the man who runs the museum of torture.

I really enjoyed this collection. I love the tone it has; it's creepy and weird but quiet. It's not scary so if you're worried about horror stories, I'd say this is a good one to check out. Plus Ogawa's writing is great (and I guess part of that credit goes to translator Stephen Snyder) so really, can't go wrong.

GIF rating:
Title quote from page 90, location 1054

Ogawa, Yoko. Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales. Picador, 2013.