Book Review: Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

10/10 A bleak, morbid, and fascinating web of short stories

Revenge is a series of short stories examining a strange cast of characters living in modern-day Japan; their unusual circumstances, how they got there, and what is often their gruesome fate.


The short stories in Revenge each center on different characters, but there are overlaps and callbacks from one story to the next. While each story can be read alone, the book is best read in its presented order. The original Japanese title (as one Amazon reviewer states) was A Quiet Corpse, An Erotic Funeral, which is more reflective of the types of stories and the overall atmosphere of the book.

The stories, all strange and often creepy, explore a range of themes from death, paranoia, revenge, and loss. Some characters won’t have closure until a later story, and some details won’t come to light until later or when you connect the dots from a previous story. It’s an intriguing and satisfying web to follow. And at each turn, Yoko Ogawa gives us unique and detailed characters.


As is the case with translations, it’s difficult to say much about the writing because I don’t know how much of it should be attributed to the original author, Yoko Ogawa, and how much to attribute to the translator, Stephen Snyder. The style is easy to read with smooth pacing.

There is one odd thing I noticed from time to time. The POV (point of view) character in some stories is identified late in the story, leaving the reader with little to go on. And in one story, unless I missed it, the POV character is never identified, not even if they are male or female. In Japanese, some words have masculine/feminine differences, so this may have been a subtle element lost in translation, but I can’t know for sure. Maybe it was intentional.


I really have few complaints. There were a couple of times that I couldn’t follow a character’s logic as they leaped to a very extreme decision, though this too may have been a result of translation. Otherwise, Revenge is a very enjoyable and dark series of stories, and my only real complaint is that there aren’t more of them.

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