Strangers Paperback – Sep 1 2003
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"The author, one of Japan’s best scriptwriters, tells a story about what he knows best. This is an interesting glimpse into Japanese pop culture. His storyline is so poignant, so emotional, it will have you hoping every character will come out ahead." -- Heartland Reviews
"Yamada has gained accolades from substantial writers such as David Mitchell and Bret Easton Ellis, but this novel is more a gentle entertainment than a serious psychic disturbance." - James Urquhart, Daily Telegraph
"(A) story that pens in spare strokes a portrait of urban alienation. (...) Less subtle, unfortunately, are the vagaries of the translation into American English. (...) What survives, however, is a memorably uncanny tapestry, and a powerful atmosphere, of heat and rain and sorrow." - Steven Poole, The Guardian
"Strangers is written with a clarity I have come to recognise as Japanese." - Kate Kellaway, The Observer
"Strangers is written with a tone that reveals great emotional discernment." - Peter Burnett, Scotland on Sunday
"What might have been a simple ghost story evolves into a psychologically acute portrait of a man unused to being cared for. (...) All of this manages to survive a poor translation that renders a delicate tale in clunking prose" - Patrick Ness, Sunday Telegraph
"Taichi Yamada's Strangers is a very efficient and chilling up-dating, to the 1980s (when it was written in Japanese), of a Noh-play-type story: of ghostly spirits filtering through into the living world, and of how the spirit must be put to rest by the living." - Anthony Thwaite, Sunday Telegraph
"As an exploration of the power of delusion, Strangers is not without interest. As a ghost story, however, it is not very frightening." - William Skidelsky, Times Literary Supplement
About the Author
Taichi Yamada, one of Japan's most successful scriptwriters, transformed the TV drama in his country and has authored several acclaimed novels. Strangers, a contemporary classic, is his English-language debut.
Top Customer Reviews
But the theme dominated and was both moving and curious. The story captures, for me, the psychological security from being my parents' child and the joys of reunion. The last sentence sums up why I like the book: gratitude for the time my parents gave me.
It's called "the Discarnates" or "Summer Among the Zombies" and it was made in 1988 by Nobuhiko Obayashi. I saw it once ten years ago and it's stuck in my mind ever since.
Finally I got it on DVD and I watched it again last night and it's just as beautiful as I remember! Highly recommended - hope the novel is just as good.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
And then one day he walks into a nightclub and encounters the spitting image of his father - who died decades before, but not only looks and acts exactly the same but seems to recognize Harada and see nothing unusual about their bumping into each other this way. And through his father he also meets with his mother, who also died decades before.
Is Harada so disconnected with the world that his mind is inventing this new situation to have something to be a part of? Is he already so much removed from the land of the living that it's opened up some kind of doorway through which the dead can pass? Have his parents returned of their own volition to try and help their unfortunate, dysfunctional son learn to live again? Or are these entities even his true parents at all? Mysteries and possibilities abound, and as the book progresses more and more of them seem to involve Kei.
A spooky and engaging book that, for all the cynicism of its central figure, also brings the opposite set of emotions and viewpoints into excellent play, "Strangers" is a great addition to the library of any fan of horror, mystery, or even the social-commentary-through-character-study genre of literature. Great book!
And then there are his new acquaintances. The fragile, mysterious Kei, who lives in the same building he does and shows up at his door late one evening. And the man he meets in a darkened theatre near where he grew up, the man who bears a striking resemblance to Harada's father, dead since Harada was twelve.
When I first bought "Strangers," I saw that it was touted as a ghost story on the cover, and I was concerned that it would ruin the surprise in the story. Fortunately, I was mostly wrong. It's not an obvious ghost story at the beginning, but from the first few pages, when screenwriter Harada becomes aware that he is alone in his apartment building at night, it has the feel of a good ghost story. This is a feeling which is built upon as the story progresses, gradually and subtly. There are no "gotcha" moments, nothing which jumps out and declares itself as That Spooky Thing. This isn't a book about shambling zombies or ghosts coming to attack you out of the television. This is a story about creeping dread and the growing feeling that something, somewhere you can't quite see it, is just a little bit off.
In terms of execution, overall it comes off very well. Some of the dialogue may seem a little clunky (I suspect that this may be to do with the translation), but most of it works just fine. The prose is spare and efficient, enough to convey the essentials and leave much up to the reader's imagination, which I prefer for a story like this one -- nothing is so frightening or poignant as that we we can imagine for ourselves. The story develops steadily and smoothly, with no real lags or rushed points.
And as it develops, as Harada learns more about the things he is experiencing, we also come to see that it is a story about the distances we create between us. This is a very modern Japanese ghost story, with modern themes and ideas that aren't just scary...they're more than a little bit sad, too. The central tragedy of the book is that all of Harada's experiences are brought about by his own choices, and the consequences they have on the people around him.
So, when you see the words "ghost story" used to describe this novel, don't think of shock-value scares or easy, predictable conclusions. This is very much a book of building tension and ever-increasing unease, and very well done. It may just make you look twice at the strangers you see around you, every day.
Whilst wandering through his old childhood home he visits a theatre and meets a man who looks exactly like his long-dead father with a wife who is the image of his equally long dead mother.
And so begins Harada's journey into the land of strangers, as he's drawn into a reality where his parents appear to be alive at the exact age they had been when they had died so many years before.
Is he living a dream? Are these people real? What is happening to him? A spooky ghost story with a modern twist, well worth a read.
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