Sayonara Bar Paperback – 2 Jan 2006
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'Pace and excitement of a thriller... Funny, crisply written and engaging' -- The Times, February 4, 2006
Edgy, commercial literary first novel set in a hostess bar in Osaka, Japan.See all Product description
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Until the latter stages `Sayonara bar' is little more than an account of modern Japan in the eyes of a visiting westerner, and although it is well written and it appears slightly two-dimensional and gives little attention to the traditional Japanese culture which remains highly prevalent. Failing to incorporate the rich cultural background detracts heavily from the book, and Barker would have been better off setting the story in a less exotic setting where this omission is less noticeable.
The plot progresses at a plodding pace when it finally gets going. This makes it all the more frustrating when the ending fizzles out with many questions unanswered and those which are, highly unfulfilling. I imagine Barker is attempting to add a sort of mysticism to her novel but this falls short.
On a more positive note the character development is excellent and the book itself is very well written. She also cleverly changes the writing styles for the different storylines and is competent is delivering the plot in the three different formats. Barker does a fine job at mixing dark comedy with drama and makes a good stab at suspense, ending chapters at tantalizing but not irritating times, before switching storylines.
Despite its poor ending, I did enjoy reading `Sayonara Bar'. Susan Barker is clearly a talented author but I feel she overreached herself with this book. I will read `The Orientalist and the Ghost' (her next novel) when it is published next year. The title has Japanese connotations again and I hope it delivers more substantially than `Sayonara Bar'.
All in all an enjoyable but flawed debut.
The most negative thing about this book is the forced English-isms (personality, products, situations) in the book. I'm uncertain as to whether the author did this for the sake of clarity (so that English readers could relate easier...?) or for another reason. Products (such as orange squash), food, and personality traits more common to English people seem to be forced upon the Japanese characters. Are Japanese people really likely to eat Japanese food with a knife and fork and make casseroles for a neighbour every night? Do their doctors recommend that they drink only orange squash? Perhaps the author chose to do this instead of introducing Japanese items to the reader. This makes the book look half set in England and half set in Japan.
If you want to read a fictional book about Japanese people and Japanese personalities, I suggest looking elsewhere.