From just beneath his collarbone, over the entire surface of his chest, to the black band of fabric at his waist, was a garden, a zoo, a kaleidoscopic riot. Across one shoulder and down the right arm, almost to the elbow, flaming peony petals rippled against the wings of Luna moths. On the other side, fat gold carp swam over his bicep in a sea of waving blue-green pondweed. On his chest, a storm of cherry blossoms engulfed a geisha, despite her parasol.
...All the images that had drawn Jennifer to Japan, the mysteries and aesthetics, were etched on his skin. Her eyes pooled with new tears at the stupidity of it all. The bizarre idealization of a culture encapsulated on the flesh of a thug.
Jesus! I adore Luna moths. And cherry blossoms and Japanese tattoo art. And...whales. Wait!...Jennifer, what about whale hunting? That should've warned you not to idealize the Japanese culture too much...
It could be just me, but doesn't this Greenpeace add offers a beautiful contrast of some of the best and the worst about the Japanese culture?:p
In Gaijin, Jennifer escapes her damp London apartment to work as a hostess in the Blonde Chicks Bar in Tokyo.
From time to time, some jumped-up, arrogant bunch of Yakuza pricks would monopolize the club's facilities, but sooner or later, they'd always get bored and leave. (...) She'd heard stories - she'd always assumed they were urban myths - of Western hostesses getting snatched and murdered, but she never really believed it.
Unfortunately, Jennifer doesn't realize yet how dangerous the sadistic Yakuza boss Shindo actually is. And it's too late anyway, for he has already set his eyes on her...
Don't expect some smut-fest or even erotica pur sang. Gaijin's written too matter of factly for that and the author doesn't try to make this story especially titillating. But she does leave you much room to interpret this story in whatever way you like. Be it the gritty, distant recollection of a girl having experienced abuse or a darkly erotic tale. I loved being able to sculpt my own characters and story-layers in my mind, without having to purposefully ignore vulgar descriptions of unearthly beauty, full luscious lips, rock hard abs and overly explanatory comments. This is something I already love about the author's style: she allows you to think for yourself and doesn't fill in too many details.
Gaijin is beautifully poetic at times, and only every now and then the writing is slightly ineffective (then he sighed as it erupted hot and dark within her (the word dark has me pondering here) and he said, with a voice like skin drawn over gravel). It's absolutely nothing you cannot look past though.
The good thing about the fact that this is a novella of only 70 pages is that it's fast-paced. I found myself blazing through it in only one sitting. The downside is that Gaijin really only scratches the surface of what could've been an intensely dark and erotic psychological experiment. The author offers a few intriguing scenes and it's a shame that she rushes through them so fast. I also would've appreciated Gaijin to start at the Blonde Chicks Bar, to allow atmosphere-building and to fully establish the predatory ways of the Yakuza boss, before he abducts Jennifer and rapes her, and she experiences confusing feelings of lust and suddenly gives in and.... It all happens in a bit of a blur.
Something that gets a lot of buzz in reviews for this book is the pearling. I already knew about the tradition of pearling among Yakuza (oh the tidbits your brain stores when you're a history nut!) and I agree with the heroine: this particular body modification does look like some revolting STD at first glance. But I suspect the benefits outweigh that...
Because this is one of those stories that made me highlight parts on my ereader like crazy, a final quote:
"Is there a fate worse than death, Gaijin?" he asked, looking out over the snowy city. "Would you prefer to end your life this way, over the side of my balcony?" Gently, he drew the edges of her ruined dress apart, pulling it off her shoulders and letting it drop to the decking. "If you don't have enough courage, I can help you."