Book Review – Audition by Ryu Murakami

★★★★ 4 Stars

“No forgiveness for lies.”

Is it the needle-sharp sting of malice, or unchecked madness grown poisonous?
Or, in the end, is it just a small misunderstanding twisted beyond repair? Too beautiful, too wrong, too strange to be real.

A widower, Aoyama, who lives with his son, decides several years after his wife’s death to finally remarry. With a producer friend, they hold an “audition” for a film which will never actually be made, hoping to find Aoyama a prospective young bride by designing a casting call that requires traits he prefers. And boy, do they find her. Enigmatic Asami Yamasaki, whom Aoyama is at once powerfully struck by, but only he seems to see an angel. Everyone around him sees something lurking beneath the mask.

Aoyama himself is flawed, being a bit shallow and impatient – he focuses on women’s looks and history more than their personality, and resorts to dating via a lazy scam of an audition. These things are somewhat small considering, but clash with the flaws of the girl he ends up choosing, persistent and with a unfathomable, unforgiving nature.

Audition is a nearly exact mirror to R. Murakami’s Piercing – both with his signature theme of genders and generations at explosive odds. Brutal, illogical desires and acts all stem from their utter inability to understand each other in the disconnection of modern society. Audition is a little different in that the hate is one-sided. Aoyama never truly grows to hate Asami, I don’t believe. Even when he very clearly should and has more than enough reason to. He just doesn’t see what she really is, or understand what she wants.

Only maybe the last fifth of the book could be considered a thriller, the rest is very much a character drama. A clean but uneasy surface barely covering up some pulsing, visceral horror that breaks through at the last minute to bad, bad, bad consequences.
Audition is a little predictable, especially with its film adaptation being so (in)famous, but nonetheless a thought-provoking and disturbing read.

*Note – There is some violence towards both an animal and people that may upset some. It’s mostly concentrated to the last few chapters, and isn’t drawn-out or gratuitous, but felt I should mention it.*

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