Saturday, September 26, 2009

All She Was Worth

by Miyuki Miyabe

Blurb from the back cover:
A suspenseful noir thriller from one of Japan’s best-selling authors. All She Was Worth takes a journey through the dark side of Japan’s consumer-crazed society. When a beautiful young women vanishes in Tokyo, her distraught fiancĂ© enlist the help of his uncle, a police inspector, to find her. The detective quickly realizes that she is not who she claimed to be, and his search for her brings him to a dangerous financial underworld where insurmountable personal debt lead to crimes of desperation. Her, spending frenzies, stolen identities, and unscrupulous creditors can create a lethal mix.
This is my first read for the Third Japanese Literature Challenge. I liked the main character, the police detective Honma, very much and the woman that he was in search of was very intriguing. I found the story compelling and read it fairly quickly because I wanted to know what happened. I found the census and registry procedures in Japan fascinating and especially liked the switching identity story line. Despite an ambiguous ending ,I enjoyed it very much.

There is one aspect of the story which I found a little puzzling which was the extreme consequences of getting over your head in consumer debt. This book was first published in Japan in 1992, 17 years ago. As I was reading I kept wondering whether I was finding it a little dated or whether it was a cultural difference. Today, especially in this recession, I think most people are well aware of the dangers and problems associated with using credit, especially credit cards, to excess and how it can rapidly get out of control. On the other hand, while today stories of people brought to ruin by credit card debt are common, in the U.S. that translates into financial ruin. While you might have to declare bankruptcy and not be able to use credit in the future, no one is going to kidnap or murder you. I suppose if you do go to loan sharks things could get dicey but I also think it unlikely that people in the U.S. go to loan sharks to pay off credit card debt rather than just defaulting on the debt. In the story people go to great lengths to avoid defaulting on debt and consequently get themselves mixed up with a deadly bunch of characters. Do people in Japan avoid defaulting on debt at all costs or has it become more common for people in Japan to simply walk away from debt these days?


Anonymous said...

You ask an interesting question, to which I don't know the answer. I just try to stay away from debt completely!

One of the things I noticed about Miyabe's work is that I am drawn in immediately, and then about halfway through the novel things seem to come to a halt for me. I really have to push to complete them, and then near the end, they pick up again for me. Weird. I wish I could remember the ending clearly enough to discuss it with you; all I remember is how much I enjoyed the mysterious search.

I notice in your sidebar that you are reading The House of Leaves. One of my book club friends said it's the scaries book she's ever read. I'm so intrigued, although I'm very easily scared!

Mark David said...

Insightful review, thanks! I have Miyabe's Crossfire but haven't gotten into it yet cause the book looks a little thick to me. I think I might enjoy that more though.

Moo said...

Bellezza - I definitely enjoyed the search as well and would try another book by this author. As for House of Leaves, I read it when it first came out and it is by far the creepiest house that I have ever encountered. In fact it stuck with my so much that I decided to re-read it for RIP IV.

Mark - I would be interested in reading Crossfire as well, although it sounds quite different from this one with the supernatural element.