So when I said that second helpings of Ogawa were due sooner rather than later, I hadn’t intended for it to be just one week later. And I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer, because if the stories in The Diving Pool were good, the stories in Revenge are great! I’m adding Ogawa to my completist reading list forthwith (even if Hotel Iris looks a little dodgy).
Revenge is such a dark emotion, best served cold they say and in some of the situations in these eleven dark tales, that is certainly true. In other cases, it is more hot-blooded while there are some situations where the prevailing motivation isn’t revenge, just something, sadder, wiser, deeper.
The collection opens with a woman going into a bakery to buy some strawberry shortcake. A cheerful opening you might think, but it becomes apparent that this purchase is something of a ritual. It is her son’s birthday … Only he died in tragic circumstances a number of years before. His story unfolds. As does that of his mother in another story further on in the collection. So too the story of the baker who is seen weeping in the back of the shop. Stories spring from the connections between an expanding cast of characters, male and female, young, middle-aged and elderly, until they circle back to the discovery of the small boy’s body. Very clever. My lack of notes gives me the perfect excuse to reread to gain a better understanding of the connections.
Motifs repeat themselves and it didn’t take long for the appearance of fruits, be they strawberries, kiwis or tomatoes, to sound alarm bells. I also learned to take the straightforward with the grotesque. These stories are very addictive particularly if you like twists – not only in the tail but also in the middle and sometimes at the beginning too!
This is the best single-author collection of short stories I’ve read, almost but not quite perfect. Ogawa crosses the line of admirable cleverness to tricksiness when she inserts the metafictional, turning Revenge into a collection written by one of her own characters. Just one game too many for me. My only other quibble is that this left me wanting more … The time has arrived for Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.