Scrolls reviews – Audition

Audition by Ryu Murakami (ISBN 978-1-4088-0072-0)

Audition is a unique, gripping and disturbing book written by the Japanese author Ryu Murakami.

Set in Tokyo, this is the story of documentary maker Aoyama’s search for a new wife seven years after the death of his first wife Ryoko. His best friend Yoshikawa devises a plan to hold fake auditions for a leading lady in a new film so Aoyama can find a new wife without trawling the bars of Tokyo. Thousands of women apply and Aoyama falls deeply for Yamasaki Asami, a ballerina who seems to be the woman of his dreams but is she too good to be true?

The answer in the end is yes and this is hinted at from the first time we meet Yamasaki Asami at her audition. Beautiful, fragile, demure, yet there’s something dark hidden within this asian angel waiting to spring forth. Murakami plays this well by using Yoshikawa to play the voice of doubt and concern to the love sick puppy that is Aoyama who couldn’t recognise a psychopath even if Norman Bates were to saunter up to him wearing a wig and dress whispering sweetly ‘I wouldn’t hurt a fly’. When the end comes you are shocked but that

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little voice in the back of your head will be telling you it was right out there from the start.

Audition cleverly places you on edge through the flaws in it’s central characters. Only Shige, Aoyama’s fifteen year old son, really comes out of this with any moral integrity. Aoyama is a character that you pity more than warm to having cheated on his wife when she was alive. The image of this forty-something widower using a fake audition to find a new wife nearer

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his son’s age than his leaves you feeling uncomfortable as does the protracted courtship. Throughout their ‘relationship’ we see both Aoyama and Yamasaki Asami dancing round each other very formally, revealing snippets of their past as Aoyama believes only what he wants about her tragic past and dreams of their idylic future. At points you just want to remove his rose tinted glasses and tell him to wake up and smell the green tea.

The book is well written but it may take a bit of effort for those not used to Japanese culture to shift their moral compass. Here the women are depicted as subservient and old fashioned values are very much to the fore. What do you mean you’d also wait four dates before holding hands! But like any good courtship this story requires patience and attention as Murakami wines and dines you before taking you back to his for the body quivering climax.

Overall a good story but you do have to let the tension build until you get to the last fifty pages when the writing gets fast and gutsy. For those faint of heart just stop before you get there.

3.5 out of 5
Review by Phil Ambler

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