Sunday, May 01, 2016

Review: Journey Under the Midnight Sun

Journey Under the Midnight Sun Journey Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino

How do you write a story about two people who have a deep involvement with each other? A deep dark tale which spans childhood, school days and adulthood as well as a time of economic downturn? Yet there’s hardly anywhere in the story where there’s evidence that the two protagonists actually meet. In fact, the two main characters have the smallest roles, so to speak.

Reading Keigo Higashino’s Journey Under the Midnight Sun hard on the heels of The Housekeeper and the Professor, I could not resist clicking on the link to the film Into the White Night
I could hardly watch for more than a few minutes and subsequent attempts did not hold my attention for longer either. I went so far as to try the Korean version too: the 2009 White Night.
The Japanese film starts with the end and fails to grip. I did try a couple of times more but ended up griping about it. The Korean film is a bit loud. 

So, basically, the challenge was to make a film out of a story like this: how do you show what is never even told in the tale? I can’t suggest a way out but the experience caused me to understand the incredible art of Keigo Higashino.

This weighty work may not suit you if you seek happy endings. There is no closure. That didn’t trouble me as I’m, by now, an avid fan of Japanese dramas and films, used to endings which are not spectacular. The end never counts in most J doramas or movies. It’s all about the journey.

Given all that I’ve said so far, the book oughtn’t to have held me in thrall.
Here’s how I’ve always read and it’s a habit I’ve not had much luck quitting: I tend to skip to the end after a while. I’ve tried hard to resist this urge but here I am at this age, still flipping to the last page.

Often, once that’s done, there’s nothing really left to go back to. However, the last bit of Journey Under the Midnight Sun just made me want to read it more carefully. It’s like an enormous puzzle. I’m pretty sure that if a group of people who’d read it met up there’d be many arguments about small points here and there in the book. It’s a superbly constructed mystery.

As if that is not challenge enough, there are so many characters, all vividly portrayed. That, and the many industries that get depicted in the various chapters, would be enough to get any author into hot water. And would, most certainly, mess up the reader so much that the book might get tossed aside.

Yet I plodded through, I skipped a lot, not really pages but lines, perhaps… And I hope to re-read it one of these days. A beautifully constructed story is much like marvellous architecture - you’d never tire of sauntering through the archways and passages of a classic building.

Racy content is left to the mind and, where there is an actual sex scene, it is austerely and most brutally enough. All those parts are made much of in the films and fail to stir there. Sex without love, sex as punishment… A story with no closure. Enough to say”‘Here’s a story that’s certainly not about love”. Yet Journey Under the Midnight Sun is a love story and it has a love story too.
The main love story is the mystery - and the films botch it. But there is a love story between the covers and I’ll leave you to find it. It’s tender and doomed but it stands strong amidst the darkness.

In the vein of those engorged books of yore, replete with sex and gore as they were, this one takes the genre and stands it on its head, offering a classic masterpiece.

A must have for any serious reader of the genre, any writer and just about anybody. There’s nothing heavy in the style; the writing flows unimpeded.
This is a book which is also an education without being boring or pedantic. You’ll learn about computer games, and many other industries before you’re through and you’ll wonder why textbook writers couldn’t be more like Keigo Higashino.

A must have novel!

View all my reviews
Post a Comment