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All She Was Worth Paperback – May 12 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st New title edition (May 12 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395966582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395966587
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14.1 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 322 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #254,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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4.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
It is a shame that this single volume is the only novel of Miyuki Miyabe's that has made it into translation. In Japan, Miyabe is a highly successful writer whose novels have been adapted into 10 films as well. Here she is only barely known, represented only by a single detective story - All She Was Worth.
The novel tells the story of Shinsuke Honma, a middle-aged police detective who is off duty while recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg. The enforced inactivity has begun to wear thin on him, and a request from a distant relative to investigate the disappearance of his fiancée - Shoko Sekine tempts him into a freelance investigation that is part meticulous investigation and part social commentary. Shoko disappeared when it was revealed that she had gone through a personal bankruptcy. Honma discovers layer after layer of misdirection and subterfuge - the disappearance is only a reflection of the grim truth.
The telling of the story reveals many of the inherent differences between Japanese and Western writing, even as it pares away at a social problem - easy credit and indebtedness - that is universal in both cultures. The telling is extremely detailed, with a strong focus not on the plot, but on the social and family milieus of the characters. The style is very naturalistic, and may irk American readers who are so used to stories that are action based and plot driven. Yet there are opportunities here for the writer to indulge of some niceties of language, many of which come through despite it being a translation.
What Miyabe has chronicled is the lives of ordinary Japanese, carrying on with their lives, not the flashy high tech or Samurai mythos face of Japan that we see most often in imported Japanese culture.
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By A Customer on Dec 3 2003
Format: Hardcover
It is extremely interesting to read the customer reviews such as the one which gives this book a low rating because it has "an unsatisfying ending". You will find a review at Amazon.co.jp on the same book saying the exact opposite. The best part of the book, the Japanese reader says, is the ending. The rest of the book is just a prelude. In spite of the favorable rating by most of the reviewers of the English version, these opposing reviews speak more about the book than all the rest. It is a book that almost comes across over the cultural gap. As such, the English version - despite the numerous informative passages - is something of a strip tease as well as a mystery. Don't expect an American novel. This book will not easily fit into a familiar formula.
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By raboof on Oct. 19 2003
Format: Paperback
This long and preachy novel by Miyabe falls far short of expectations. The primary character detective Honma sets out on a hunt for his nephew's fiancee who has gone missing. In the process he learns all about how the Japanese credit system works and how the unwitting are sucked into the whirlpool of debt. He gets a nice long lesson from several characters about how people who are in debt up to their eyeballs are just everyday folks who got caught up in something they didn't realize was so bad for them.
After too many pages of that preachy 'debt is bad' prose, Miyabe sets Honma off in search of the missing fiancee. It's almost miraculous how just when Honma seems to have run into a dead end there is a phone call or some stranger shows up with information that gets his quest restarted. The chapters essentially follow the cycle: "Honma starts out with some information. The information leads to some small clue, but the clue doesn't seem to lead anywhere and the information runs out. A miracle happens and Honma gets some new information." The story gets tiring as this chapter format keeps repeating itself.
Miyabe introduces characters like Shoko Sekine's friends, but they don't seem to have any real relation to the plot except to give miraculous information as explained above. Frankly, by the end of the book it was difficult to discern who the author was talking about since there were so many phonecalls from so-and-so and contacts from such-and-such. The whole story began to unravel towards the end with so many loose ends crowding out the main story.
The end of the story itself is incredibly unsatisfying.
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Format: Paperback
Miyabe does not seem to suffer of Hollywood cop envy--very unlike Beat Takeshi in his "violent cop" variations. Miyabe's main character, the temporary disabled policeman Honma, is a very Japanese cop, moving through the pages with calm and precise (pedantic?) police work. The novel is an excellent, moody euro-style mystery in the fashion of Simenon. But there is very little of the "new" japan promised by the back cover. Rather, the co-protagonist is the suffocating bureaucracy of the old Japan.
What bothered me about the book is the similitude with some "educational" Manga -- see for instance Shotaro Ishinomori's work published in the US in Japan inc. . Like in Ishinomori's strip, Miyabe stops the narration of the facts with long digressions about the Japanese economic situation. It's definitely interesting and it's all good, but it considerably slows down the rythm. Possibly the biggest disappointment however has been the fact that the "contemporary Japan" portrayed is actually ancient history: while US edition of the book came out in 1999, the novel is from 1992, and while Japanese economy has been depressed all along, quite a few things have been changing, for instance in the woman condition (see for instance by Japanese Woman by Sumiko Iwao).
Overall nice novel, but why publishing something so dated? I understand Ms. Miyabe has quite a following in her native country, I'm sure starting with more current work might better introduce her to the English language readers.
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