this book is delivered in a stark and barebones prose, but the story itself is surprisingly convoluted and intricate.
the first chapter is told in the form of a lecture as a teacher addresses her class with what appears to be a series of anecdotal non sequiturs about the new milk program at school, the announcement of her impending retirement, the illness of a “famous” teacher at another school, the recent death of her four-year-old daughter manami, etc etc. but slowly, subtly, her lecture becomes a tightening noose as these seemingly unconnected stories take on a chilling import as she ultimately accuses two students in the classroom; shūya and naoki, of causing manami’s death, and then very casually drops the bombshell of the horrifying revenge she has already set in motion. her detached offhandedness makes this final lecture incredibly shocking, and when the teasingly meandering narrative starts to firm up and show its true shape, it’s just like BOOM
class is dismissed.
the second chapter threw me for a loop at first. new voice, new tone – who’s this then? turns out, this chapter is told from the POV of a girl in the class, mizuki – the class president, who witnesses and reports on the aftermath of the teacher’s revenge-plot-admission and the way it affects the two accused boys and how the revelation that they are murderers causes the other children to treat them. short answer: badly.
from there the chapter-voice is handed off to each of accused two boys in turn, and a chapter from naoki’s sister, and then it circles back again to shūya and naoki, and with each chapter, we learn more and more about the repercussions, as well as more about the motivations leading up to the girl’s murder and the truth of her death as each narrative answers a few more questions, unmasks lies, exposes intent, and fills in the gaps as the individual perspectives begin to interlock in these perfect spokes, and the story comes to an explosive conclusion with a final chapter from the teacher – one last act of vengeance, one more gotcha, and the last word is emphatically had.
i liked it, although i found it dragging sometimes, despite how unadorned the prose is. sometime i felt it was taking too long to get to the conclusion, and would have worked better at a faster pace considering the genre. i did really enjoy the structure – a sort of nest of confessions, with an increasingly paranoid tone, and i appreciated the way that the motivations for seemingly inexcusable actions are revealed and you begin to be able to sympathize and understand the characters a little better, but then we’re off into another viewpoint and all the good intentions or misguided reasons have already been tainted and transformed into new violent acts and it’s just too late for anyone to be saved.
bleak. deadly. destructive.