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Sayonara Bar Paperback – Feb 12 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 329 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New edition edition (Feb. 12 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552772402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552772402
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 3.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,809,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Hello Osaka April 9 2005
By R. Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Bad timing. After taking the Frankfurt Book Fair by storm in 2003, the then titled Tsunami Bar, a novel about a blond British bargirl paid to flirt in a "hostess bar" in Osaka, was set to do the same for the world. The world, however, intervened. Just prior to publication, a real tsunami wiped out much of parts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and elsewhere on December 26th. The publisher, fast on its feet, realized it had to make a quick name change-hence, Sayonara Bar.

Before reading the actual book, the usual dread overtook me: another book by a former English teacher who spent perhaps two or three years in Japan. Another expert. Probably can't order from an izakaya menu. Would break out in hives at the ward office when filling out a simple form.

Then I read the book. It is no doubt heavily autobiographical: English woman goes to Japan planning to make some cash and then travel, but ends up working as an "economy geisha" and staying longer than she planned. What follows, I feared, would no doubt be snide commentary about Japanese, about the mizu shobai economy of such bars, and a blue-eyed expat's life in seedy Japan. In the process, however, the protagonist Mary comes into something darker and deeper than she bargained on-and the reader gets something both darker and deeper, too. Barker has a fluid style and writes sentences reminiscent of Haruki Murakami, observations like Natsuo Kirino.

The novel features several outstanding characters. While working as a hostess, Mary becomes involved with the bar mama's son, Yuji, who is connected to the Yakuza. And to which he professes the greatest loyalty. The introverted cook Watanabe observes all from an addled, manga-obsessed fantasy world. He believes he can perceive what others cannot. A third character, Sato the Salaryman, is an overworked lonely drone who finds solace in the smoke-filled bar, the only place he can forget his dead wife.

Barker's descriptions are spot on, the story a snapshot of a certain milieu but one that ultimately transcends it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Imaginative. May 6 2008
By Michiru - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Sayonara Bar is a novel that works best as a collection of ideas. The book introduces us to three main characters: Mary, a not-very-bright hostess from England with a disgusting boyfriend; Watanabe, a college drop-out who might or might not have magical abilities; and Mr. Sato, an uptight businessman who might or might not be haunted by his dead wife's ghost.

The book itself is fascinating. Aside from an interesting story with original characters, I found reading it to be very nostalgic. As someone who lived in Osaka, where the story takes place, it was wonderful to be re-introduced to all the areas I hung out and enjoyed. If you've never been, Ms. Barker's evocative imagery is a great introduction to the area and the people who live there.

Unfortunately, the book rather falls apart in the end. We never find out what happens to our three main characters, whether they come out of the trials they go through all right. I think the author was trying to be philosophical, but instead the ending was just confusing and unsatisfying.

The rest of the book is great, however, with interesting characters, exciting adventures and thought-provoking monologues. Whether you like the ending or not, its definitely worth reading.
magical realism nicely employed May 1 2008
By algo41 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This novel, set in modern day Japan, follows three characters whose stories are told in alternating chapters. Two work at the same hostess bar, while the third is a "salaryman" who was brought to the bar by his boss. The novel has been praised for its fidelity to Japanese culture, and if you do not have even a reading familiarity with this culture, the cultural insights are a definite plus.

What marks the novel, however, is its use of magical realism. One of the bar employees is a young man who is a cook there, and who had a nervous breakdown while in college (this is not explicitly stated). He believes he has evolved into a human being of higher consciousness, and in fact some of the things he learns about other people can only be explained as magical. However, for the most part, he can be considered a realistic character, and his soaring delusions are voiced in exceptional prose. The salaryman also has something of a mental breakdown, but I was confused by the boundaries between his delusions, reality, and the magical.

Sayonara Bar is an original work of fiction which mostly succeeds and is an interesting read. It proceeds at a measured pace until the plot speeds up at the end in a not altogether satisfying way. I was particularly bothered by the role of Katya, who is portrayed as an unfeeling egoist throughout the novel, but at the end proves to be a devoted friend and lover.
A good read - keeps you interested! April 28 2008
By Jason West Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Good book - started out a little slow perhaps but by the end I couldn't wait to find out what happened and put it all together!

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