Book Review: The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

Japanese modern fiction is something I enjoy and read occasionally. I’m a fan of Haruki Murakami (e.g., The Wind-up Bird Chronicle) and I also loved books like The Devotion of Suspect X and Battle Royale.

The Thief is not typically Japanese, I thought. It’s set in Japan, but it could have taken place in other locations quite easily. I didn’t like it more or less because of that, it’s just an observation!

The Thief: What it is about

What the publishers say: “A Toyko pickpocket commits one crime too many – and finds himself way out of his depth. A taut, stylish noir thriller from one of the most feted new voices in Japanese fiction.

Nishimura is a seasoned pickpocket, weaving through Tokyo’s crowded streets, in search of potential targets. He has no family, no friends, no connections . . . But he does have a past, which finally catches up with him when his old partner-in-crime reappears and offers him a job he can’t refuse. Suddenly, Nishimura finds himself caught in a web so tangled and intricate that even he might not be able to escape.

The Thief: What I thought

This is a very well-written story about a pick-pocket. I loved reading about his methods to steals people’s wallets and how he got into the profession. I didn’t like it when he got involved with a gangster-type. It was not of his own volition and quite easy to see how this might happen. Still, what happened after that, was more interesting than I had expected.

The thief is clever and creative with his skills. Except for picking pockets, he seems quite an honest person, ready to help out others in need when he can. So, I quite liked him as a main character.

The story itself is sometimes confusing (I wasn’t always sure what was happening now and in the past) but it stays interesting until the (bitter) ending.

What it lacked (a little) in plot, it more than made up by writing style and the topic. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this short book.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Number of pages: 212

First published: 2009 (Japanese edition; UK edition: 2012 (hardback), May 2013 (paperback))

I got this: from Corsair for review

Genre: contemporary fiction

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11 Responses to Book Review: The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

  1. Susan Tunis says:

    I liked this book, but maybe not quite as much as you, simply because I found it depressing. One of my favorite aspects, however, which you didn’t mention at all, was the relationship with the kid. I gave it 4 stars. FYI, his second novel, Evil and the Mask, is out in the US on June 11th. I plan one reading it in the next couple of weeks. Here’s a description:

    The second book by prize-winning Japanese novelist Fuminori Nakamura to be available in English translation, a follow-up to 2012’s critically acclaimed The Thief”€another fantastically creepy, electric literary thriller that explores the limits of human depravity”€and the powerful human instinct to resist evil.

    When Fumihiro Kuki is eleven years old, his elderly, enigmatic father calls him into his study for a meeting. “I created you to be a cancer on the world,” his father tells him. It is a tradition in their wealthy family: a patriarch, when reaching the end of his life, will beget one last child to dedicate to causing misery in a world that cannot be controlled or saved. From this point on, Fumihiro will be specially educated to learn to create as much destruction and unhappiness in the world around him as a single person can. Between his education in hedonism and his family’s resources, Fumihiro’s life is one without repercussions. Every door is open to him, for he need obey no laws and may live out any fantasy he might have, no matter how many people are hurt in the process. But as his education progresses, Fumihiro begins to question his father’s mandate, and starts to resist.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Susan, I didn’t find it depressing, although I can see why you might say that: the inevitability of what’s happening to the thief?

      I mentioned the relationship with the boy without mentioning it: the fact that he would help out other people. Yes, I liked that bit the best too.

      The new book has a similar theme to *The Thief*, the idea that you can predetermine someone’s life to some extend. I’m not sure what I think of the description. I think I’ll let you read the book first. 🙂

  2. Parrish says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this & liked its introspective nature and sparseness of plot .

  3. This sound like “Out”, by Kirino Natsuo, which I will start next month, for the Japanese reading challenge 🙂

  4. Charlie says:

    I can imagine this being quite fast paced, even if there’s little plot. It being character-driven does make a lot of sense.

  5. I have this to read, and am looking forward to it. Love a good Japanese fiction book!

  6. JoV says:

    I got to read this! unfortunately it is not on my local library yet. 😦

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