Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse by Otsuichi

Genres: Crime, Japanese
Publisher: Shueisha
Publication Date: June 10th 2016

2 OUT OF 5 STARS

Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Satsuki dies after being pushed from a tree. Her two best friends know that they have to get rid of the body before it’s discovered. The two children struggle to find hiding places and to cover up the crime. This version also include Yuko a story of a young girl working in a mansion where her master’s wife is suspiciously absent.

The introduction sort of spoils most of the story, which is a shame. It had the potential to be quite a suspenseful tale, but the introduction tells us how everything unfolds. Perhaps this is fine when writing introductions for classics such as Charlotte’s Web where most of the English speaking world knows the ending but not for a story like this. No matter how big it was in Japan the English translation is going to happen upon mostly new readers and this introduction will ruin the thrill for them.

The story itself obviously did have the potential to be thrilling, but overall was unsatisfying. It lacks a lot of the emotion and horror a story like this should have. There’s very little sadness or anger, and the ending was a little too neat and tidy. Otsuichi did a good job and weaving all the characters together and foreshadowing, but the story just felt a little empty. It didn’t have heart.

The biggest issue I took with this book was the narration. Satsuki is telling the story, and it’s made clear that she’s attached to her corpse. She still feels what her corpse feels and sees what it sees; but often the protagonists aren’t anywhere near her corpse. Satsuki continues to narrate ignoring that her corpse isn’t present, and as soon as it is again she goes back to being attached to it. It’s clear that first person was the more powerful choice for this story but it wasn’t executed well. First person omniscient is rarely satisfying, and it isn’t in this case either. Satsuki knows things she shouldn’t and the narration is too peaceful for someone who was just murdered.

This particular copy included a short story by the author titled “Yuko”. While it had quite a brilliant twist the ending sort of over-explains itself. It’s always nice to have the mystery solved at the end of a story but when the story is so short the several pages of explaining felt tedious. It would have been more shocking to leave it with less explanation and a more clipped ending.

Perhaps these are just stories that suffered because of translation, Japanese culture if obviously incredibly different and so must be the way they tell their stories. That said it was a fairly disappointing story for an English reader.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: The Lovely Bones

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