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review 2015-01-04 15:37
Last Winter We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura
Last Winter We Parted - Fuminori Nakamura

The basic story is very much like In Cold Blood. A writer is sent to interview a convicted killer. The killer is a photographer who has been found guilty of burning two women to death. There is no doubt that he is guilty. He stood there and photographed the women as they burned. But the more time the writer spends on the story, the more he starts to question this. Did the photographer really kill these women? Or is there a important piece of information missing? A piece that could change everything?

 

 

I used to read a lot of mysteries as a older teen/young adult. I don't remember why I started shying away from the genre, but it probably had something to do with predictability. Just recently I've started reading them again, and this was a great "jumping back into a genre". The story full of twist and turns and predictability is nowhere in sight. I didn't love it, but I didn't have it either. The story is told from multiple POVs. You're not always told what POV you're reading. Add that to the fact that a few of the characters have very similar names, and you have a recipe for extreme confusion in parts. Something that should have really bothered me but didn't, was the fact that none of the characters are likable. They're all awful, despicable people. I think the reason it worked for me was because the author didn't try to hide how awful they were. He didn't try to say "yeah, that was a really fucked up thing to do, BUT they meant well". He let them be exactly who they were.

 

 

I would read anther title by the author.

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review 2014-11-30 08:14
Last Winter We Parted
Last Winter We Parted - Fuminori Nakamura

Original Title: 去年の冬、きみと別れ (Kyonen no Fuyu, Kimi to Wakare)

 

A young writer visits a convicted murderer/photographer on death row, willing to write a book about him. At first convinced about his guilt, he soon finds that not everything is as it seems in this world of photography. Did he really set those girls on fire?

 

I haven't read a great deal of Japanese books, but the ones I read all seem to have some kind of 'strange' fascination with death. Last Winter We Parted was no exception to my experience, but with a synopsis like that I hadn't really expected anything else.

 

I took me some time to get into the story. In the beginning I found it hard to distinguish between the different characters and the flashbacks/letters. I was thinking 'This is a completely different book from what I expected to read'. But at a certain point it became almost impossible for me to put down the book, as the plot (that might not be very plausible at all times, but it didn't bother me this time) unravels I just had to know how things would end.

 

Was it a 'perfect murder', a 'murder for art', an accidence or are things not as black-and-white like that? A fascinating story which could've had a somewhat better execution in my opinion, but still it made me want to check out some other books by Fuminori Nakamura...

 

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2014-10-22 10:01
Butterflies and Burning Girls
Last Winter We Parted - Fuminori Nakamura

Title:

 

Last Winter We Parted

 

Who wrote it?

 

Japanese crime novelist Fuminori Nakamura, winner of the 2010 Ōe Kenzaburō Prize.

 

Plot in a Box:

 

Death row inmate Yudai turns the tables on his interviewer, pulling him into a dark, obsessive world he may not want to leave.

 

Invent a new title for this book:

 

Burning Girls and Butterflies

 

Read this if you liked:

 

The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

 

Meet the book’s lead:

 

Yudai Kiharazaka, famed photographer who had...ahem...a burning desire to get some memorable shots of his models.

 

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

 

Daniel Henney of X-Men would work.

 

Setting:

 

While this novel takes place in Japan, it could be set in any modern-day city. Our real landscape is the twisted minds of Yudai and those who claim to understand him.

 

What was your favorite sentence?

You ask a lot of questions for a coward.

The Verdict:

 

Multiply-lauded Nakamura’s latest novel takes us into the mind of a murderer whose greatest lie may be the admission that he’s guilty. When an unnamed writer agrees to interview one of Japan’s most notorious Death Row inmates it becomes clear—as he flees to the nearest whisky joint after their first meeting—that he’s bitten off more than he can chew. The accused, Yudai Kiharazaka, begins demanding that the writer trade pieces of personal information for details of Yudai’s crimes in sort of a ghoulish quid-pro-quo. Threatening the writer’s equilibrium even more is “The Dollmaker”. This elderly man makes eerily life-like replicas of dead girls and has insight into what makes a man like Yudai tick. Less forthcoming is Akari, Yudai’s sister. Beautiful and malevolent, she soon becomes as much of an obsession for the writer as she is for her own brother. Struggling not to be drawn into the labyrinth of deception he’s rapidly uncovering, the writer turns to other sources—archival material, letters, even Twitter, to discover the truth.

 

Last Winter We Parted takes us into the mind of a photographer, so it’s no surprise how highly visual this novel is. The whole time I was reading it, I was thinking, ‘What a gripping movie this would make.’ (This would be particularly true if certain scenes were shot similar to the video for Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”). Another strong point is the sexual tension between the writer and sister Akari. Their scenes are amongst the most engrossing in the book.

 

That said, Last Winter…is not without its flaws. The narrative shifts POV quite frequently. I found myself having to read certain passages over again just to figure out who was speaking. In a novel with so many twists and turns, this is an issue. The writer is rather sketchily drawn. We know he likes a drink, and that he likes Akari, but there’s nothing really to draw us to this protagonist, who is much needed as an anchor in this type of mystery.

 

Flaws aside, Last Winter We Parted is an engrossing, original mystery that does not neglect the element of surprise. I would recommend this book. And I’d definitely check it out if it ever came to the big screen.

 

Bookshots review written for LitReactor.com by Naturi Thomas

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review 2014-10-07 09:12
Last Winter we Parted - Review.
Last Winter We Parted - Fuminori Nakamura

Publication Date: October 21st 2014 from Soho Press.

 

Source: Netgalley

 

A young writer arrives at a prison to interview a man arrested for homicide. He has been commissioned to write a full account of the case, from its bizarre and grisly details to the nature of the man behind the crime. The suspect, while world-renowned as a photographer, has a deeply unsettling portfolio—lurking beneath the surface of each photograph is an acutely obsessive fascination with his subject.

 

This one was a bit hit and miss for me - the story was intriguing for sure and there is some dark obsessive traits to the flow of the novel that do keep you reading - however, whether something was lost in translation or whether it was just me, the whole thing felt a little disjointed.

 

On the plus side it is a compelling tale - A writer preparing to write a book about some grisly murders begins interviewing the killer - but some dark secrets start to emerge which changes his outlook on the whole thing and leads him down a dark path. I particularly loved the themes relating to creativity and when it becomes obsesssion, the dangerous nature of the protagonists becoming clearer and some of it is really quite frightening.

 

However I found it hard to separate the characters on occasion - the writing style didnt really change, and sometimes the plot lost cohesion and you were not really sure where you were. Whilst the killer and the writer are well drawn, I found the women to be too caricature for me - over the top and unlikely, which sometimes took me out of the moment. It also suffered from a rather convoluted (in my opinion) resolution and a tendency to pull plot threads out of nowhere. To be fair that is likely to be translation issues rather than anything else but still it grated somewhat.

 

There is definitely a great book in here, the premise is clever, the execution may be hit and miss as I said but still I read to the end because I absolutely had to know what was going on and what the outcome would be.

 

Overall, good not great, but worth a try if you like your fiction with a dark heart.

 

Happy Reading Folks!

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