Hotel Iris by Yōko Ogawa
Translated by Stephen Snyder
Picador | Paperback, 164 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I’ve been testing the limits of exactly how far I can get out of my comfort zone when it comes to books. I’ve been picking up more Adult Fiction in an attempt to broaden my horizon. When a family friend recommended this book, I was under the impression that it was going to be Erotica. Though, why she would think I’m interested in Erotica at all escapes me. Hold your smirks, people.
Her exact words were, “Hotel Iris makes Fifty Shades of Grey reads like child’s play”. Who would say no to that? This book is very slight. Written by Japanese author and translated for worldwide release, Hotel Iris is a stunning account of a disturbing sexual (?) relationship between a 17-year-old girl and a 67-year-old man. Mari’s fascination with a man fifty years her senior is transparent throughout the novel. You know she’s drawn to him because she sees her father in him – which makes their BDSM relationship that much harder to stomach.
Mari has very little childhood to speak of; when her father died from injuries sustained from a brutal beating, she’d learned to accept that her future will revolve around helping her mother with their crumbling hotel business. It’s there that she’ll meet the translator, a sixty-seven-year old man who lived in the island and who has a penchant for hiring prostitutes. From the first time she’d heard of his commanding voice, Mari’s curiosity quickly escalated into obsessive fascination. The fascination then becomes a morbid relationship between a girl and a man old enough to be her grandfather.
Violent, disturbing and a harsh portrayal of a BDSM relationship that feature two most unlikely pairing. Ogawa’s writing is deceptively sparse. However, the impact of her words is very explosive. Fair warning, if you decide to read this book with the expectation that it’s going to be erotic, you will be highly disappointed. There is nothing erotic about a minor being beaten, humiliated, and whipped by a man. Hell, even if the woman is of age, I find this type of relationship unsettling. I could never understand why this is healthy or acceptable.
But hey, I’m not one to tell you not to read a book. Ogawa’s writing and Snyder’s translation makes for a fascinating read that will have you cringing at times. The tandem managed to make this book an “asexual” Erotica. Meaning, there is nothing sexy about it. However, that doesn’t take anything away from how riveting it is.