2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful novel on getting to grips with a deceased spouse combined with some extreme violence - great even after the movie,
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This review is from: Audition (Kindle Edition)
'Audition' is likely to be a pretty shocking book to someone not knowing what they are getting themselves into. It is a book of two parts - the first a wonderfully perceptive description of both the grieving process after the loss of a spouse and the difficulties of re-entering the dating world years later, and the second a dash of extreme violence in almost complete contrast to all that went before.
Aoyama - a middle aged, moderately successful widower (the protagonist) - gets prodded by his teenage son Shige to perhaps start looking for a wife again, seven years after his first wife died. He appears ready for the step but completely dumbfounded how to go about it - here his friend Yoshikawa helps with an unconventional but intriguing idea - the two will hold an audition for a female lead role in a fictional movie, giving Aoyama the possibility of quickly finding some likely candidates that would conform to his ideas of what a future wife should be. Just such a candidate is eventually found, leading to a protracted courtship and gentle progress towards marriage.
The book is written in a very richly descriptive language and the translation appears excellent (not being able to judge it against the Japanese original but it is nowhere stilted or giving the impression that one would do better to learn Japanese). The author also does a monumental job of capturing the conflicting emotions of the protagonist, helplessness battling with infatuation, the difficulty of accepting any advice, which is not what one would want to hear, etc. On top of this you get a romp through Tokyo's unparalleled culinary scene and some more general observations on the development of the Japanese society (pre- and post-bubble).
Some reviewers have characterized the ending as too abrupt or blamed the author for not producing proper closure. While I can see where this is coming from, one could also say it is the natural conclusion - as the whole book is written from Aoyama's point of view and only little is revealed of Yamasaki Asami, it should not be surprising that we are left without a justification for her actions in the end (and one cannot say that hints aplenty were not innocently provided throughout).
In any case, the contrast of the ending to the majority of the book definitely holds a lot of appeal in my opinion and is perhaps not surprising for the author - well known for pushing the boundaries of Japanese modern fiction.
On a final note, I read the book years after seeing the movie. While this may not necessarily be the natural sequence, I still felt the book was just as worthwhile and would advise anyone who already watched and liked the film to go the extra step of reading the book - even if it is only subsequently. The mere fact that you more or less know where it ends is much less relevant than the additional richness the book provides.