In April our book club continued with foreign literature, reading In the Miso Soup by Japanese author Ryu Murakami. It was a very surprising book, disturbing, strange and interesting. It definitely wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it did give us plenty to talk about. A review of the book is still to come, but for now, we’ll recommend some similar books you might want to try. At the end, we’ll also share discussion questions in case you’re reading this book with your own book club!
Reading recommendations for In the Miso Soup
This recommendation comes from Charlotte, who first read Coin Locker Babies and then wanted to read more by Murakami. It’s about two boys who were abandoned in adjacent train station lockers. After growing up together in an orphanage, they head out to the city to take revenge on the women who left them.
Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino is the story of two prostitutes who were murdered in one of the seedy neighborhoods in Tokyo. Twenty years ago they were both going to a prestigious school, but slowly started living a secret life where sex meant power. It’s disturbing and gets compared to American Psycho, so beware of some awful moments.
This one was found in a list of recommendations by David Mitchell, where he talks about his favorite Japanese novels. The Makioka Sisters by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki is a domestic family saga, but with a supernatural element to it. He describes it as David Lynch writing a season of Mad Men with an emphasis on the women. Sounds like an interesting recommendation of Japanese weirdness to me!
- What do you make of Frank? Is there a supernatural element to this story or is he just human?
- In the Miso Soup is set in the red-light district of Japan. Here many women date for money, but they do not see themselves as prostitutes. Do you agree with this?
- The book often talks about the differences between Americans and the Japanese. Discuss some of these differences and how they work within the narrative.
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