Plot summary[ edit ] The book is written in the first person for all parts and follows a woman whose sister and old school friend have been murdered. The narrator of Grotesque is unnamed and forever lives under the shadow of her younger-by-a-year sister Yuriko, who is unimaginably beautiful and the center of all attention. The narrator hates her younger sister Yuriko because she was always looked down when being compared with Yuriko. While the narrator is smart, responsible and plain looking, Yuriko is strikingly beautiful but flighty and irresponsible. From there she becomes a full-time prostitute, and declines as she ages.
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This book shows a different face to mystery, more than the circumstantial kind, it offers something deeper, darker. It probes beyond merely what happens and dives into the inner being of those involved in the horrifying set of events that unfold. If I were to coin a name for this genre then I daresay this should be called existential mystery. It transcends the whodunit and mystifies us with whoami.
It threatens the reader and taunts us with questions that we all dread, one men have asked for centuries: why do women sell their bodies? Is prostitution an act of courage or cowardice? If everyone is claiming to tell the truth yet have conflicting stories, who do I believe in?
What kind of truth are we searching for? Is there even such a thing? Told in different narratives by multiple characters in a non-linear progression, the truth may never be clear but the path of those who seek it is never dull. Yuriko and Kazue, both alumni of the prestigious Q high school, end up as dead prostitutes in Tokyo.
In the span of a year both killed by the same man, the impoverished Chinese immigrant Zhang. One was the Helen of Troy incarnate, a stunningly beautiful girl with an excessive sexual drive, the other a model daughter, a hardworking intelligent student who lived to please her strict father. How does one arrive from point A to point B? What prompted them to prostitution when they come from such an elite setting? What has to happen to a woman for her to choose that kind of life? It engenders a chimeric sort of problem rooted in different backdrops from the confined society of privilege, to the highly competitive corporate structure, the multicultural home, a superbly impoverished upbringing, and of course a very patriarchal parentage.
The query of character is given many facets from the stunning nymphomaniac, the vengeful monster, the bullied little sister, and the sacrificial aunt. All play different roles and have different driving forces that started them off the path that led to this precarious occupation, but is anything holding the disparate pieces together?
What is the unifying thread in this entangled web of carnal debauchery? No doubt this is incredibly sad, but men have the capacity for countering such feelings in a woman.
Still, if sex is the only way to dissolve these feelings, then men and women really are pathetic. I do not know what to make of it. It could mean that women prostitute themselves in order to feel less hatred for the world when she is in the arms of a man, or it could be interpreted as a joyful celebration of her triumphant revenge against a society that tells her that she should be something else yet she proudly defies whenever she sells her body.
Both could be true, both can co-exist together. Would it matter if one holds a degree of truth higher than the other? Probably not, I do not even know if degrees of truth can be different.
But I think what we can all agree on is that prostitution stems from hatred: of society, of men, of poverty, of self. It could all be true. And the last few bits about how pathetic we are, we men and women who play games of hatred and love totally blind yet assuming airs. It is a tiresome affair no matter where you look at it. Different viewpoints and narratives all clash and come together, equally negating and supporting the perspectives of those who came before it, and squashing those to come after it.
Each embellishing their own lives and stories with tinges of self-justification and portrayals of their ideals, every narrative with emotional depth, all with self-righteousness and doses of self-hatred. What then is the truth?
Is there a truth relative to each point of view? Are they all beacons of truth revealing the hidden self they have masked for no one else to see or are they all telling lies covering our eyes with reconstructed mists of wishful thinking? This novel never once takes a moralist view, which I find comforting. Prostitutes are not a problem, the problem lies with the kind of environment we live in which still sees women as commodity and lets them see the benefits of such an action because that is the best choice they can make given their situations.
Who are we to judge? I strained my eyes to see. Every man will promise to the woman he is with that he will be good, that he will do nothing but love her, yet deep inside lies the potential for violence and tendency to thirst for dominance and control which, if awakened, will slowly strangle the life and vitality out of the woman, like forceful hands around her throat, until death consumes her wilted body.
Every man is a dormant Zhang, a potential manipulative exploiting murderer of the woman in his arms. Can we blame women for wanting to gain a little money when they partake in an affair that is quite dangerous for them?
I cannot. I only wish to suppress my tendency to embrace this conditioned role that generations of patriarchal men before me have played.
I know I am Zhang, yet I strain my heart not to be.