Review: EVIL AND THE MASK by Fuminori Nakamura

EvilAndTheMaskNakamuraAudioMost of the positive reviews of this book seem to concur that its premise is some combination of fascinating and credible. I didn’t find it either of those things which is possibly why I found the entire thing hard going.

Said premise is that there is a particular Japanese family whose special secret is that they are – by choice – deliberately evil. For the sake of it. Our story’s anti hero, Fumihiro Kuki, is 11 when first told by his elderly father that it is his destiny to be a cancer on society. However, little Fumihiro soon becomes determined not to follow the path pre-determined for him, primarily because of his love for Kaori, a young girl who was adopted by his father from a local orphanage.

I know that all fiction demands the suspension of disbelief but I’m afraid I never got there in this instance. The whole “our family is a cancer” thing just seemed ridiculous to me and I’m not entirely convinced the author bought into his own premise. In the end it offered not much more than a very clunky platform for the author to have a too-long rant about the world being a rather horrible place.

Putting aside the issue of me never really believing there would be a family of people who choose to be evil “just because”, I did actually enjoy the first third of the novel. It switches between Fumihiro’s present-day experiences, when he has undergone plastic surgery and taken on a new identity, and his recollections of his childhood, beginning with his father’s unsettling announcement. The way that his father intends to ensure Fumihiro’s adherence to the evil creed is…well…truly evil…and I couldn’t help but be engaged by wondering how Fumihiro would respond.

However from about a third of the way through, the book lost its way. It seemed to move from a traditional narrative to a diatribe about the modern world, as if the author had almost forgotten there were characters at all (though there’s a bit of gothic romance thrown in I suppose). There were several very long monologues about terrorism, the beauty industry, modern economics and so on which at no point felt even remotely natural and these were forced into a somewhat meandering story that ultimately went nowhere very surprising (and literally ended in the same place it had started).

I really liked THETHIEF, the first of Nakamura’s books to be translated into English, and while EVIL AND THE MASK started with promise I’m afraid it didn’t sustain my interest. Its relentless nihilism combined with awkward lecturing was not to my taste.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Kirby Heyborne
Translator Satoko Izumo & Stephen Coates
Publisher AudioGO [2013]
Length 9 hours 11 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series standalone

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This entry was posted in book review, Fuminori Nakamura, Japan. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Review: EVIL AND THE MASK by Fuminori Nakamura

  1. Jose Ignacio says:

    I had my doubts whether I wanted to read it and I have made up my mind, with your help, Bernadette. Thanks.


  2. Bernadette – No, this definitely doesn’t sound like one for me at all. Thanks as ever for your candor.


  3. MarinaSofia says:

    I’m about to start reading The Thief, so am relieved to hear that you liked that one. It’s very disappointing, isn’t it, when the second book we read of an author we quite liked then doesn’t live up to expectation?


    • Indeed it is. I started this one with much glee, remembering how I had enjoyed the first one even though it’s probably outside the definition of the type of thing I normally like. Oh well.


  4. TracyK says:

    I don’t know if I would have been attracted to this book anyway, but your description would turn me away. I think the long monologues would definitely drag the plot down, even if I was interested in the premise. I will try to keep an open mind and check out other reviews. You never know. I did read your review of The Thief and it sounds better


  5. Oh dear, this does NOT sound good. It sounds a horrible concept anyway, and your review removed any possibility that I would read it…


  6. Cathy says:

    “Its relentless nihilism combined with awkward lecturing was not to my taste.”

    This sums up perfectly why this book was a DNF for me.


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