Hotel Iris, By Yoko Ogawa

Reviewed,Emma Hagestadt
Friday 25 March 2011 01:00 GMT

Yoko Ogawa's previous book to be translated into English, The Housekeeper and the Professor, was an engaging portrait of a mathematics professor with short-term memory problems.

Hotel Iris, written in 1996 and translated by Stephen Snyder, is a more transgressive affair. Teenager Mari works at a hotel on the Japanese coast. In a bid to escape her controlling mother, she begins an intense relationship with a man in his sixties. He is a practised pain artist and keen to induct the young Mari into his fetishised world.

Precisely written, this dreamlike narrative expands into an ambiguous story of sexual dependency and damage. A feeling of airlessness smothers the book, and Ogawa's exact prose glitters as menacingly as the surrounding sea.

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