I read this book because Gill Tasker of Cargo Publishing told me, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, that I would really enjoy it. When Gill tells you something like that, even though she published the book, you know this is a book you must read. And when a book is published by Cargo Publishing you know that you are onto a good thing. And when the author is appearing at the edinburgh International Book Festival, you know that is a guarantee of quality. So I bought a copy of the book, got a ticket for the event, and set about the process of enjoying myself discovering an author who was completely new to me.
I hope that this blog will persuade my readers to do exactly that, as well, and that they will read “Tokyo” because it is a book that takes you to the heart of the human condition. The main characters are Ben, Mazzy and Koji, with Lydia, Kozue and a few others hovering in the background. Ben is a professor of social psychology studying Japanese cults, Mazzy is his daughter on a visit, keeping in touch with her mother Lydia by social media and Skype.. Kozue is Ben’s lost love who he is trying to make contact with again. Koji is a psychopath. The story centres round the interaction of these five, and the other people in the book.
I do not intend to give away the plot development, but it is fair to warn the reader that there are some scenes of graphic violence, but not necessarily in the portrayal of the actual deed. It is more in the description of the thinking of the people concerned, or in their bafflement at the turn of events. But it is worthwhile talking about the elements that drive the plot.
Ben is searching for himself. This is crystallised in his search for Kozue, a lost love who he idolises, and in his relationship to Lydia, his older ex-wife. I am not sure why, but Oedipus’ relationship with Jocasta kept coming into my mind. This is not a comparison that Nicholas Hogg makes directly, but it is very much a part of their relationship. Mazzy is seeking to become an adult. She is dependent upon her parents, an is, quite naturally, seeking to assert herself. Koji is seeking some form of redemption. Just as Ben seeks a way forward in his life by finding Kozue, so Koji finds himself attracted to Mazzy.
Nicholas Hogg takes you to the heart of a very human situation. You expect something dreadful to happen, and it does, but the resolution is not one that you will expect at all. This walk through the dark underbelly of Japan will tell you things that you do not want to know, but you will benefit from knowing them.
This is a remarkable book.