Firstly, huge thank you to Granta and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publication Date: 01/10/2020
Length: 247 pages
Genre: Translated Fiction | Japanese Fiction | Contemporary Fiction
CW: underage incest, child abuse, child sexual abuse, cannibalism, violence, murder
Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what.GoodReads
Now Natsuki is grown. She lives a quiet life with her asexual husband, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing, her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself with a reunion with Yuu. Will he still remember their promise? And will he help her keep it?
Even if you aren’t an avid reader of Japanese literature like I am, you most likely still heard of Murata’s first English-translated novel Convenience Store Woman which earned much acclaim. Although I am an avid reader of Japanese literature, I actually haven’t read it myself yet but when I got the opportunity to read her next novel Earthlings I jumped at the chance.
I really liked Natsuki and really felt for her, especially with the way she was treated by her own family. Her voice was very interesting, as she had a very childlike way of describing very adult concepts (eg. capitalism and sexism) which made her so unique and a great protagonist. I found the way that she would cope with horrific things that would happen to her. I thought her husband was also fascinating although, a lot more unnerving in his view on the world. He was much more extreme in his beliefs and it was unsettling seeing how far some people have the potential to be driven to reject conventional society.
Murata does an excellent job of making the reader feel uncomfortable, but you can’t help but continue to read on. I felt myself physically recoil or grimace at some of Murata’s descriptions, but I was so invested in the story of Natsuki that I pressed on. Despite the shocking scenes that are presented to the reader, the novel actually portrays very interesting critical commentary on society and life in Japan which I found really interesting.
Overall, I know that this book won’t be for everyone due to some of the subject matter but, if you’re happy with the content warnings, I recommend that you give this novel a go! It is refreshing, brutal, read which I loved. I both wanted it to go on for longer and was happy for it to be short and punchy. I will definitely be picking up Murata’s other novel, Convenience Store Woman as soon as I can!