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Out by Natsuo Kirino


Phew, I finally finished reading this. The book cover is so provocative that I have to wrap it up with a cloth cover when I am on the train.

Gosh, what can I say about this book?

It’s nothing like what I have read before. Entertaining? Quite. Plotting? Excellent. Thrilling? Towards the end. Horrifying? Yes. Sick? Definitely!

In the suburbs of Tokyo, there are four women who work the same assembly line in the factory. Day after day they worked the graveyard shift packing boxed-lunch. Masako Katori, 43, the leader of the line is a housewife with husband and son, Nobuki, who all lived a silent and separate life from each other. Yoshie Azuma (nicknamed Skipper), works the night shift and get home during the day to take care of her bedridden mother-in-law. She has two other daughters. Kuniko Jonouchi is a spendthrift, incur piles of debts and the less intelligent of the lot. Yayoi Yamamoto, a pretty young mother, has two little children and a husband who is a gambler, two-timer and violent.

May contain spoilers (the blurb spoil it too, so don’t read it)!

One day, Yayoi went berserk and strangled her husband Kenji then confesses her crime to Masako. For reasons I will never comprehend, Masako agrees to assist her friend and sought the help of the other, Yoshie and Kuniko to dismember and dispose of the body in various part of Tokyo, most notably Koganei Park. Kuniko was careless and disposed several bags of body parts in the park, where it was found by the public and identified by the police.

Can you imagine throwing something you want to hide in this park?

Can you imagine throwing something you want to hide in this park? photo credit  (Koganei Park in Spring)

The police begins their investigation and it led to the owner of the Casino, Mitsuyoshi Satake, where Kenji, the victim had a brawl the night before for stalking the top girl Anna in the club. Anna happens to be Satake’s favourite.

The women soon found out that their greatest fear is not the police but a yakuza connected Jumonji is out to uncover their secrets and a ruthless night club owner whom the police are convinced of the murder is out to hunt the women down, one by one.

The truth is I wasn’t impressed with these four women to begin with. One killed her husband, one initiated to help, one got involved involuntarily, the other one was dragged into disposing the body parts. There are 4 people involved, the parts are scattered everywhere and they expect everyone to keep quiet about this??!! Not only have they agreed in doing the dirty job, they involved too many people, asked a stranger to keep their millions and left trails of evidence for the bloodhounds to sniff it out. And then they turn this dirty job into a business and profit from it. Whoa, I just thought this is going too far. Am I supposed to take this novel seriously or just a quirky one?

End of spoilers

Besides the four women, Kirino introduces a cast of extras whose life stories were just as tragic and sad as the four women. Kazuo Miyamori is a half Japanese, half Brazilian who works in the factory. Anna the girl who works in nightclub and fell in love with Satake. Kirino painstakingly paint a vivid portrait of all these characters, the men are despicable and sleazy, the women miserable and dim. Besides rolling my eyes lamenting how stupid some of these women are, I was genuinely touched by the helpless situation that Kirino manage to portray the women to be in. Heart-wrenching.

They called her Skipper, and she did, in fact, run the line. The role kept her going, helped her survive the dreary work; it was her one source of pride. But the painful truth was that there was no one to help her. Instead, all she had was her pride, goading her to keep working no matter how hard it was. Yoshie had wrapped up everything personal that mattered in a tight package and stored it away somewhere far out of sight, and in its place she had developed a single obsession: diligence. – page 28

As she shuffled along, it occurred to her that, for better or worse, it was Kenji who had provided her life with a direction: Kenji’s moods, Kenji’s health, Kenji’s salary. She found herself wanting to laugh. After all, she was the one who had tossed the rudder overboard. – page 457

Out is a psychologically taut and gives you a glimpse into the psychopathic twisted mind. How far would you go to seek freedom? How far would you go to change your life? The most dangerous human being are the ones who are being suppressed.

At 520 pages, this book is too long to be any thrilling. I strongly suggest that you take your time to read this. Don’t feel as if you need to rush this and find out what happens next. I didn’t like the first half of the book, perhaps being too slow and the motive were a little unbelievable. However, the final quarter of the book redeemed itself. One thing for sure these women’s situation are very, very sad. You will root for them not to get caught by the crime they have committed.

You have to read this. This is like nothing I ever read before. Warped feminism. Gory scene, rape scene, torture scene, this book is a product of a sick mind. It will make you sit up and take notice, the graphic scenes will haunt you in your sleep and it will make you think. It makes Jo Nesbo and Henning Mankell look tame.

Not for the faint hearted.

Rating: four stars

Although I am one day late, I’m slotting this in for both of these reading challenges. 😉

Japanese Literature Challenge 6January in Japan

Everyone else seems to read this a long time ago. I am glad I read this book. Let me know if you reviewed it. Other views:

Jackie@Farmlane Blog: It is really hard to convey just how good this book is. It isn’t just that it is a cleverly plotted, perfectly paced book which is packed with complex characters and boasts a perfect ending.

Judith: The book is written from different people’s perspectives. I liked it how a few other characters seeped into the story, starting as not important at all, but taking a more and more central role the further in the story I got.

Reaction to reading and Bookie mee.

Read an interview with Natsuo Kirino about the book here.

Paperback. Publisher: Vintage Original 2004, originally published in 1997; Length: 520 pages; Setting: Tokyo, Japan Source: Own copy. Finished reading on: 1st February 2013. Translated by Stephen Snyder.

About the writer:


Natsuo Kirino (桐野 夏生 born October 7, 1951 in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture) is a Japanese novelist and a leading figure in the recent boom of female writers of Japanese detective fiction.

A prolific writer, she is most famous for her 1997 novel, Out, which received the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, Japan’s top mystery award, and was a finalist (in English translation) for the 2004 Edgar Award. In addition, Kirino received the 1993 Edogawa Rampo Award for mystery fiction for her debut novel, Kao ni furikakeru ame (Rain Falling on My Face), and the 1999 Naoki Prize for her novel Yawarakana hoho [Soft Cheeks]. So far, three of her novels (Out, Grotesque and Real World ) have been translated into English. A fourth novel, What Remains, a violent tale of childhood abuse and sexual degradation, enjoyed a considerable readership in Japan; Kirino, however, has expressed doubts that it will do as well in the U.S. market. Kirino also has written an installment in the Canongate Myth Series (concerning the myth of Izanagi and Izanami) published in 2009.

A further novel, In is scheduled for publication in 2013.

A Japanese film adaptation of Out, directed by Hideyuki Hirayama, was released in 2002 to generally tepid reviews. According to Variety (on-line edition), New Line Cinema has purchased the rights for an American version, to be directed by Hideo Nakata (Ring, Ring 2)


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


24 thoughts on “Out by Natsuo Kirino

  1. I read and enjoyed this book too. It’s so different from standard murder mysteries. My review is here: http://leeswammes.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/book-review-out-by-natsuo-kirino/

    Posted by Leeswammes | February 1, 2013, 10:01 pm
  2. Yes, I did read this sooo long time ago! Before I even started blogging I think. I stumbled upon the book in a bargain bin in Singapore and read it out of whim – never heard of the title beforehand. As I rarely read crime novel I found the book to be really different with what I’m used to. On the other hand, it felt very Japanese (somewhat familiar). Glad you finally read and liked it!

    Posted by mee | February 1, 2013, 10:12 pm
    • Mee,
      I read your review and saw that you bought this in Singapore. Yes, it felt really Japanese and I’m wondering is this fantasy or real life? Why is it most Japanese novels are so morbid, melancholic and suicidal? I’m just glad I finally read it. Stop me from wondering what it is all about!
      Thanks for dropping by!

      Posted by JoV | February 1, 2013, 10:19 pm
  3. Skpped the spoiler part in the middle as I haven’t read this one yet (see I do have to read everything 😉 ), but despite the brutal parts I’m still very excited about it. I’ve read her Grotesque last year and really liked it. What really intimidates me is the size of the book 😀

    Posted by Bina | February 1, 2013, 10:54 pm
  4. I’m sure this is a good book of its kind, but every review I read convinces me never to try it myself. Not my sort of book 😉

    Posted by Tony | February 1, 2013, 11:03 pm
  5. This sounds so great – I only discovered it recently via David’s blog Follow The Thread, and I went out and got a copy for myself straight away. It’s on my TBR *soon* pile, so I have skimmed over your review and come back when I’ve finished!

    Posted by Marie | February 2, 2013, 12:21 am
  6. It’s a rare thing for us to have read the same book but alas I didn’t enjoy this one as much as you (or much at all really) – I found it a one-dimensional “all life is bleak” kind of thing that just doesn’t appeal to me – you know virtually from page one (of a gazillion pages in this case) that no one is going to come out smiling at the end and so there’s no real sense of drama or forward movement. But I’m sure we can agree to disagree politely and I know I am in the minority as most people I know who have read this feel as you do

    Posted by bernadetteinoz | February 2, 2013, 7:37 am
    • Bernadette,
      Of course we can agree to disagree! 😀 You have a point of not liking it. I didn’t like the first part of the book but appreciate greatly the portrayal of women who got stuck in their lives like these characters in the book.

      Posted by JoV | February 2, 2013, 9:13 am
  7. I have read both of her books-good noir Tokyo texts-your points about the credibility of the actions of the factory women are well taken. Good to hear she has another book in English coming out soon,

    Posted by Mel u | February 2, 2013, 9:51 am
  8. I will be reading this as soon as I can find a nice second hand version but may wait and see if tony does the same again next year before reading it ,all the best stu

    Posted by winstonsdad | February 3, 2013, 6:19 pm
  9. It is great to see that you’ve read this. I loved it! I agree that things occasionally get a little far fetched, but I loved the way this book made me think about what I’d be willing to do to help a friend. The way those women helped each other was really interesting. I’m still not sure what I’d do if my best friend told me she’d just murdered her husband!

    Posted by farmlanebooks | February 4, 2013, 3:28 pm
  10. I’m so glad you did this challenge in January! Japanese literature has a special place in my heart and I’ve been recommending “Out” to people for a bit now. I really love it!!

    Posted by Shelbi | February 7, 2013, 6:36 am
  11. I read this book few years ago and loving it. Out makes me want to read more by Kirino.
    Great review and I like how you put that park to make a stronger image. Although I think a review without spoiler is always better 😉 lucky I have read and reviewed the book

    Posted by Novroz | February 10, 2013, 2:09 pm
    • Novroz,
      Sometimes I feel strongly about a book and I’ll go ahead and spoil it for my review! What I usually do in books that I intend to read is that I skimmed through the review or don’t read reviews at all but the last few lines and thoughts of the bloggers. I like to go into my book without having any idea what it is going to be, as well. 😉

      Posted by JoV | February 18, 2013, 11:04 pm

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

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The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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