SinC25: Miyuke Miyabe, #5 post of “moderate” challenge

Having completed the Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ easy challenge, I am now embarking on the next step, the:

Moderate challenge: write five blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention another woman author who writes in a similar vein.

For my final post in this part of the challenge, I’ve chosen Miyuke Miyabe, a Japanese author. One of the pleasures of reading crime fiction is its window it provides into countries I’ve never visited and may never visit. The two books I’ve read by Miyabe show the frustrations and desperation of ordinary people, whose dilemmas are the same yet different from those in a similar vein experienced in the UK, and where society has rather different strictures and freedoms compared with those with which I’m familiar.

All She Was Worth concerns a missing young woman, and the search for her conducted by a retired detective and widower. I wrote in my review that the book is “strongly critical social comment of the personal and family devastation caused by the uncontrolled rise in consumer spending and credit of the 1960s, when regulations in Japan were relaxed. For me, this book ticks all the boxes – I learned a lot about attitudes and the ways of life of people in Japan, and about the country, as well as thoroughly enjoying the strong if tragic plot, the social commentary (occasionally digressive but I didn’t mind), and the combination of toughness and humanity that characterise the best crime novels. The title is also apt, as becomes apparent.”

Shadow Family is the other book by this author that I’ve read. On the surface it’s the story of a murder investigation, but a clue to its real subject matter is given by its original title, R.P.G. (role-playing game). First published in 2001, it is an early-ish fable (but far from a sentimental one!) about the depths to which “games” can allow people to plunge. Such games have been more popular in Japan than in most or all other places, and the author here explores, in a metaphorical way, the reasons why – the events described in the novel being as illusory as the game some of the characters are playing. I wrote in my review that the author wants her readers “to experience the psychological stresses of living in a rule-bound, stratified society that makes very high academic demands of its children and that allows little room for the individual to control his or her own life, so some rather awful directions are taken (by one character in particular) in an attempt to break out. Shadow Family is an intriguing and thought-provoking novel – not a warm book or one that fits into any clear definition, but one that leaves an uneasy impression in the mind after its edgy, hallucinatory account is over.”

I haven’t yet read any more novels by this author – she has written a very large number of them (a list is at Wikipedia), but it seems that only seven (including the two mentioned here) have been translated into English. One of the best known of these is Crossfire, about a young woman with psychokinetic powers which has both been made into a film and a mobile-phone manga animation (anime) – I’m not sure if I’ll read it. As well as writing crime novels, Miyabe writes science fiction, historical fiction and books for young adults and children. There is more about the English-language translations of her books at the Simon&Schuster website.

Now I have to think of another woman author who writes similar books! Well, that’s a tall order but I’m going to go a bit left-field and suggest that Dominique Manotti is relatively similar, in her hard-hitting novels that seem to be set in a parallel France where the rules are different to those most people live by or say they live by (Rough Trade and Affairs of State). There are many obvious differences between the two authors, of course, but I think they are both in the same place when it comes to exposing a structured society’s hypocrisies by sometimes rather extreme allegories and actions.

The Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ challenge (SinC25) (At the blog of Barbara Fister, the originator).
All Barbara’s posts and round-ups of contributions to the SinC25 challenge.
All my contributions to this challenge.