Monday, 10 September 2012

Tokyo Devotion

Book Cover
I don't normally read crime-mysteries... I prefer the typical novels exploring human relations (yes, I'm a sappy one). But because The Devotion of Suspect X has become such a sensation in Japan, I just had to figure out what it was all about...

I do have to admit, just 10 pages into the book, I was already feeling that Higashino's prose was not the most beautiful I had read.  It was nowhere as intricate or heart-moving as the words that one may find streaming from the pens of Jhumpa Lahiri, Haruki Murakami, or Tea Obrecht. Then again, the fault could also lie in the translation from Japanese. 
I wasn't entirely critical about the prose, tho. I knew that I was reading a blockbuster novel, and not necessarily a work of literary genius. But I do have to say that for what Higashino lacked in beautiful words, he sure made it up in the plot of the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way in which the story twisted and turned, going round-and-round. The story was not a who-dunnit; we knew very well who committed the murder just a few pages into the book.  But somehow, for the entire journey of 440 pages, I was kept guessing, digging into layer upon layer of intricacies. And then I got to the end, where the biggest twist of them all happened.

I also enjoyed Higashino's development of the book's characters. Many of the characters
represented what I felt as typical stereotypes of the Japanese: Ishigami (the logically driven math nerd), Yasuko (the hardworking, down-and-out, pretty single-mother and former hostess), Kudo (the honest, well-meaning slaryman) and Kusanagi (the righteous police detective). I would have probably objected to this stereotyping had the book been written by a non-Japanese. But because it was, then I swallowed the story whole as a partial study of the Japanese society.

When I think about it, the story did feel a bit "flat". It wasn't a roller coaster of emotions the way other novels I've read recently, like Lewycka's A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. But now that I've finished reading the book, and am looking at it in a reflective way, I am starting to feel that "that was just it!".

While the prose may have intentionally been developed  flat or emotionless (just like the demure of the main character, Ishigami), the story was actually very engaging . What makes me say so? Well, I finished nearly 3/4 of the book within a couple of days. Swift changes of emotions did not happen, but once the story is over, some of its underlying themes lingered on and on. Themes such as sacrifice, penance,
righteousness, resilience, and of course, devotion. 

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