Saturday, 9 July 2011

A Jaunt to Japan: Who is Mr Satoshi? by Jonathan Lee: review

This is Mr Lee
Jonathan Lee's debut novel (I attended the launch party last year but have, slightly shamefully, only got round to reading it now as the paperback comes out, which seems to be happening increasingly these days) is an intriguing and accomplished piece of work, longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize. It concerns loss, love and the desperate human need for companionship, played out against a backdrop of sushi restaurants and electronic lavatories.

Foss (his surname is 'Fossick') is a middle aged photographer who doesn't take photos any more; he suffers from terrible agoraphobia, having collapsed after the death of his pregnant wife. When his mother dies (in front of him, collapsing in the garden) he discovers a mysterious box with a label addressed to a certain Mr Satoshi. The only trouble is, this personage from his mother's past lives in Japan, and is probably already dead as well.

Lee's protagonist is a convincing creation, tender and thoughtful and timid. As details unfold gradually Foss goes to Japan to fossick (excuse the pun) around for the truth. He meets a pink-haired Japanese college student, who lives in a love hotel with a fat gay ex-sumo wrestler who has a fixation with Dolly Parton, and the two of them embark on a sexless but emotionally confusing relationship as they delve further into the mystery. Was Mr Satoshi a murderer? Why does Foss have to put stamps on his penis? And will he ever get to see the winter daffodils? Who is Mr Satoshi? is a striking first novel, imaginative, intelligent and well-structured. A witty 'trailer' for the book is below.

Read about the party here

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