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Butter by Asako Yuzuki. A Look at Japan and it's society's treatment of Women though a Murderous Culinary Tale. Book Review.


Author: Asako Yuzuki

Translated by Polly Barton

Published by Harper Collins

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 452

MRP: Rs. 599/-

Translated from Japanese, Asako Yuzuki's "Butter" centers around Rika, a journalist who has stumbled upon a murder case set to go on trial soon. The convicted woman, Manako Kaiji, was accused of killing four of her paramours according to circumstantial evidence surrounding her case. Determined to get the first scoop, Rika uses everything in her power to get herself an interview with Manako, so much so that her friends and family end up getting tangled in the case along with her, especially when it becomes clear that Manako's charms might end up blinding Rika herself to the truth.

"Butter" is part murder mystery and part psychological drama, though the focus of the story is on the characters more than it is about the murder. While the murder was inspired by a true story, it takes a backseat to the examination of Japan's society and how it treats its women. The fact that Makano is considered a fat woman who must have used her cooking to lure the men (since she doesn't merit a glance otherwise), the pressure of women having to choose between marriage and work instead of juggling both, the loneliness that each character goes through and how it all culminates together into a sort of found family trope — these are the themes that tie this book together. It's very reminiscent of "Lady Joker" and Natsuo Kirino's "Out" in that sense, though the author doesn't dig too deep into the issues as I think she tried to juggle too much of them inside this book.

Of course I have to talk about all the food mentions! I can't count how many times I drooled over the dish mentioned in this book, and if I had the will and the time, I know I would have probably even tried to cook up some of the meals mentioned — seriously, how do you make 'rice with premium butter' sound so appetizing?

Don’t go into this expecting a murder mystery, as it's more of a literary look into the symptoms of a society that should be closely examined. Also, do read this after you've eaten, because you will feel the urge to cook up something otherwise.

The narrative delves into the societal expectations of women, particularly in the context of marriage and motherhood. Reiko’s decision to quit her job and the pressure to conceive highlight the challenges faced by women in balancing career and family life.

The author, Asako Yuzuki, crafts a story that is rich in detail and emotion, with Polly Barton’s English translation capturing the nuances of the original text. The book offers a poignant look at the complexities of modern life and the personal sacrifices made in pursuit of societal ideals.

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