Set in Tokyo, ‘Parade’ by Shuichi Yoshida tells the story of four twenty-somethings who share an apartment together. However, when a homeless teenager called Satoru moves in, nobody seems very sure who the newest resident really is, why he is living there or if he is connected with the shady activities of their neighbours and the recent violent attacks on local women. Or, as Yo Zushi writing in the New Statesman put it: “Imagine if Friends had ended with the revelation that Chandler was a psychopath – and that Joey, Monica, Ross, Phoebe and Rachel weren’t bothered by it.” Intrigued? I certainly was.
As with so many works of modern Japanese fiction such as the novels of Haruki Murakami and Hiromi Kawakami, ‘Parade’ deals primarily with the theme of urban alienation and is driven almost entirely by the development of the dysfunctional main characters. The novel is divided into five parts with each section narrated by one of the five flatmates as they recount the events of their everyday lives which turn out to be only loosely connected together. Firstly, there’s Ryosuke who is in love with his friend’s girlfriend, then there’s unemployed Kotomi who waits by the phone all day for her soap star boyfriend to call, then Mirai who gets drunk in gay bars every night and Naoki who works for a film distributor. Satoru’s version of events is inevitably the last.
Originally published in Japan in 2002, ‘Parade’ is Yoshida’s debut novel but is the second to be translated into English. I have yet to read ‘Villain’ which has become something of a cult book and has seen Yoshida widely touted as “Japan’s Steig Larsson”. However, I found ‘Parade’ to be a very quiet sort of psychological thriller with little in the way of plot and no real violence until the very end. There are certainly elements of mystery surrounding the characters but there are very few clues leading up to the crime itself which made it even more shocking when it finally happened.
If you are looking for a more plot-driven thriller, then ‘Parade’ may not be for you. However, even though it doesn’t fit as neatly into the crime fiction category as I had expected, ‘Parade’ is a dark, tense and affecting story which fans of contemporary Japanese fiction will probably enjoy. If you have read ‘Villain’, I would be interested to hear your thoughts about it.
Many thanks to Random House for sending me a review copy via NetGalley.