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Hitomi Kanehara is an up and coming young Japanese novelist. She wrote her first book, Snakes and Earring at 21 which won an acclaimed award in Japan and was praised by well known Japanese author Ryu Murakami. Snakes and Earring and an intriguing and disturbing story about a young woman's with obsessions with tattoos and piercing and her interesting and destructive sexual relationship with her boyfriend. I really loved this first book of hers so when her second novel to be translated into English came out, I couldn't wait to read it.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, autofiction is a style of writing combining autobiography and fiction. Adding the two together seem to defy the point of both, however i think it works really well. The author can write about her life but changing parts of it do it is no longer a completely true story, or in the case of this book, write fiction in the style of an autobiography so that the reader in unsure whether the book is about the author or not.
The novel is split into 4 parts travelling backwards during Rins life. We start in her 22nd year and end when she's 15. The book starts with Rin on a plane with her husband. The kind of girl Rin is is revealed pretty quickly as she comes across as completely insane. In the space of a mere few pages she thinks about how much she loves her husband and wants to be with him forever because he is completely perfect and then all it takes is an air hostess bringing him a drink for her to want to kill herself, the plane to crash as he would most definitely cheat on her with the air hostess and then her life wouldn't be worth living. Rin is a writer and is having to go to interviews with a number of magazines. She's agreed on most of these interviews for no reason she can think of at all, she has one with a magazine called Independent Women, although she considers herself totally dependant on her husband and one about UFOs although she doesn't believe in aliens. Her manager asks her to write a piece of autofiction, about her past.
Back in time we see Rin as a party girl in Shinjuku with a boyfriend she doesn't trust and who lies to her quite often, but she's determined to make it work with him because she loves him and he's perfect for her. Her friends are pretty much the same as her, they're only bothered about boys and partying. Her best friend tells her that she was kidnapped, and she wasn't really bothered, because she thought she'd only be raped. But then she was gang raped in some woods, but someone picked her up so she could get home, so she had sex with him too. No one seems phased by this.
Back in time a little more and Rin and her friends decide to go to a party where she meets the boyfriend from the previous chapter. At the party it's not long before a girl is dragged off by some men and will assumedly be raped. Rin asks her future boyfriend if all the girls were going to be raped, he tells her they are, but that's what kind of party this was, so she should of expected this.
We also see Rin in a relationship with an older guy working in a pachinko parlour who has a huge gambling problem. On thinking she's having an affair with another man he forbids her from leaving his apartment and seeing her friends. She doesn't mind too much though, because she wants to be with him.
The novel ends when Rin is 15 and is in a relationship with a man she calls Kitty, a university student. She has a volatile relationship with her parents so escapes with Kitty at every opportunity.
Although Rin is clearly quite insane, or at least has a very unhealthy attitude towards sex, men and relationships, she is what makes this book great, and actually gets to be quite likeable. The way that she is is so over the top that it's quite humorous at times. The way she is written is fantastic, her thoughts and mannerisms come across really clearly. The way she interacts with people and what she thinks about them differ a lot, but this gives a lot away about her character. Her relationships with men are the main theme of this book and going back into her past shows the reader how she got to have the attitude she has at present.
The book is quite funny and the way Rin acts and thinks makes you think 'oh my God!!', however, being a girl that (I think) has mostly normal and healthy relationships, reading Rins story is really quite sad. I cannot imagine any girl thinking of sex and men as Rin and her friends do, they seem to have no respect for themselves or their bodies. The things that happen in the book is completely shocking at times, although you can imagine girls actually being like this. This book is set in Japan, and gives a view of Japans youth which makes you feel uncomfortable and disbelieving. The book is predominantly made up of Rins thoughts and is brutally honest. It shows you what thoughts a girl has that they would never admit to anyone.
The fact that this book hints at being autofiction (or more than hints, being that it's the title!) makes the story even stronger, as it is written by a young Japanese woman the same age as the protagonist. It would be easy to think that the author took from real life experiences as she could have easily experienced the same things Rin did. The question is, whether the book really is fiction, or if there is any truth to it, and where that is. This is quite a short book, and i liked it so much that I wished it had been longer!