Saya is a classically beautiful Japanese girl of nineteen. She has no difficulty attracting men of all ages, and is happy to give them what they want. Sometimes they pay, sometimes not, though she doesn’t particularly like any of them, and as for love, does that really exist?
Then she meets Bogey.
He’s a middle-aged forty-something with a paunch and greying hair who fancies himself as something of a yakuza, a gangster. He makes his living through gambling, wagering on anything late into the night, mahjong, the horses, bicycle riding, and the super-hot boiling over stockmarket where everybody always wins. He adores gangster movies and hanging round with the rough crowd. Saya is bedazzled by Bogey, he’s known as that because of his love of Bogart’s movies. She’s fascinated by his weird selection of friends and is flattered by the attention of an older man, especially one such as he. Inevitably she becomes his mistress without a moment’s hesitation.
‘Whatever you do, don’t go with a gambler,’ was the one piece of advice her mother gave her when it came to men. But when did a teenage girl ever take advice about men from her mother? Saya is no different. She jumps at the opportunity, she loves cuddling into his warm body and laying her head on his fat tummy, she will do anything he wants. She even buys a cookbook and attempts to cook him the food he loves, not that he is impressed by that, preferring to eat in the seedy underworld he inhabits.
So opens Rika Yokomori’s novel set in Japan and New York.
In places the book comes across almost as a reality TV programme. It is as if the camera is set permanently on Saya’s shoulder. She is rarely out of shot as we learn of the exciting parts of her life, and the mundane, almost in equal measure.
But this is a page turner as we watch Saya slowly growing into a worldly-wise woman. Gradually she begins to see things as they really are. Everything, as you might expect, is not so rosy in the life of a wannabe yakuza’s moll. There are sure to be rocky times ahead.
Rika Yokomori has published more than thirty-five books in the past fifteen years and this one is certainly worth a look. True, I did guess the ending some time before actually arriving there, but that was no big disappointment. There is a peach of a final sentence to look forward to. If you enjoy modern novels from Japan then you will find plenty here to keep you interested. If you haven’t tried oriental fiction before, then this one could be a good place to start.