All She Was Worth Paperback – Apr 1 1999
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Recovering from a leg injury, a 43-year-old Tokyo police inspector named Shunsuke Honma realizes how out of touch he has become when a relative asks him to make some private inquiries into the disappearance of his fiancée. While he wasn't paying attention, it seems that everyone in the country but Honma has been caught up in a consumer feeding frenzy--going into heavy debt and declaring bankruptcy at a snowballing rate. This engrossing story of the search for happiness through shopping marks the first appearance in English of one of Japan's leading writers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The horror in this beautifully fashioned tale of stolen identity lies not in the cold-blooded crimes but in the motive?a desperate hunger for consumer goods. Shunsuke Honma, a widowed 43-year-old Tokyo police inspector with a 10-year-old son, is on disability leave. The boring cycle of idleness punctuated by painful physical therapy sessions comes to a halt when a nephew asks for Honma's help in finding his missing fiancee, whom he knows as Shoko Sekine. As Honma's search intensifies, he realizes the fiancee had actually assumed Sekine's identity and possibly killed her. For the American reader, the jewel in this enormously compelling novel is the portrait of working- and middle-class Japanese getting caught in a cycle of astronomical personal debt in order to enjoy the good life. Also eye-opening is Japan's elaborate registry system for keeping track of its citizenry. In order to become Shoko Sekine, the impostor had to perpetrate an ingeniously elaborate series of hoaxes and lies. Honma is tenacious, methodical, an attentive listener with a retentive memory and the ability to connect disparate bits of information. The trail takes him back through the real Sekine's history and into the life of the other woman, whose family ran afoul of vicious loan sharks. Miyabe drives her complex plot with spare prose, combining expert pacing and psychological nuance to ultimately haunting effect. (Feb.) FYI: All She Was worth was named Best Novel of the year and Best Mystery for 1992 in Japan.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
What follows is an ingenious yet somewhat murky murder mystery about the search for a woman on the run; come to think of it, it is a search for two women, one running and one not.
I've read Japanese authors translated before (Murakami, for instance) but this was my first Japanese suspense novel. I'll be subtle and say that this is a fabulous and riveting thriller! And take it from someone in Tokyo: as a bonus, you also get a very accurate tour of contemporary Japan and the consumer culture that preys upon the individuals and society that created it.
One of the most compelling faces of detective fiction is the notion that the culprit leaves behind a trail of clues to his past, however hard he may have tried to erase that trail. That is the heart of this novel. The fact that in the past an individual in Japan was defined by his or her place in the family, and that now citizens have a residence certificate as proof of identity. That, coupled with the legal requirement that children are responsible for their parents' debts. One common way out is personal bankruptcy; our protagonist in the novel chooses to escape by assuming an entirely different inidividual's identity.
It is rather fitting then that the novel should be set in a society like modern day Japan's, where escaping an unhappy past may well be considered to be the ultimate crime.
Most recent customer reviews
It's been months and I still remember the story of this book vividly. I can think of few better compliments! Read morePublished 15 months ago by SirVincealot
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". Read morePublished on Dec 3 2003
The book kept me glued from begining to end. Miyabe-san is on her way to one day catch up with the author I consider the most prolific Japanese mistery writter, Mr. Read morePublished on March 11 2003 by Andres Klingberg
This is one of the books that I have wanted to read for quite some time but for some reason or another have put it off. Read morePublished on Dec 25 2002 by Daitokuji31
I had never read anything of Miyabe's before so I wasn't sure what to expect. I had heard about all of the hype this book received in Japan, so I was curious to see what it would... Read morePublished on June 27 2002 by C. E. Stevens
Miyabe's first book in translation is a solid mystery with an engaging investigator, but suffers slightly from an occasionally lecturing tone. Read morePublished on June 12 2002 by A. Ross
Miyabe Miyuki (the Japanese way, last name first) is a distingushed writer in Japan. She has written dozens of novels, both period pieces and modern stories, such as this one. Read morePublished on May 13 2002 by Isabella K. Badenoch
In Japan, a police inspector on leave to recover from a gunshot wound is enlisted by his nephew to find his missing fiancee. Read morePublished on April 12 2002 by David Bonesteel