Saturday, May 19, 2012

Who is Mr Satoshi?

Jonathan Lee
Who Is Mr Satoshi?

Windmill Books, 2011

Robert Fossick, or just Foss, at the very beginning of the novel becomes a witness to his mother’s stroke in the yard of her home. Once a successful photographer, Foss still can not recover from the death of his wife during their trip to Greece. Mourning, our hero firmly hooked on all sorts of pills to calm his own mind, and now his mind is in a constant fog. He has a slow reaction; he does not leave home for weeks, and he has long abandoned photography, living off the royalties for reprinting his old photographs.

Before her death 80-year-old Foss’s mother Alice casually blurts out that after she dies, he’ll need to deliver a small parcel to a Mr. Satoshi. There is an address in Japan, but it is incorrect. Foss hasn’t not attach much importance to his mother’s words, but at the funeral the photographer is approached by a woman named Freddie, a friend of the deceased, and she reminds Foss about Mr. Satoshi, noting that for Alice this is very important. Foss still has to fly to Japan, where to find Mr. Satoshi a Japanese girl Chiyoko will help our protagonist.

This fragile history, something reminiscent of the S. Coppola’s film, "Lost in Translation", sometimes is almost slipping into melodramatic fiction of not too high quality, but the sense of language saves Jonathan Lee. Plot-wise the film and this book has some similarities: both take place in Japan where a man and a woman with a difference of age meet each other under not normal circumstances, between them some feelings flash but they are afraid to identify these feelings. In the novel Foss and Chiyoko don’t lose themselves in translation. Chiyoko even better speaks English than English protagonist.

Dialogues in the book are one of the most powerful elements there. Meeting of slowliness and taciturn of Foss with the mobility and ardor of the Japanese girl gives birth to hilarious examples of dialogue between the characters. Thу plot line of the relationship between Foss and Chiyoko adorns the novel. But the main storyline – the search for Mr. Satoshi – is somehow predictable and melodramatic. Finding of love of the last one of relatives is a theme quite beaten and not worthy of such an excellent stylist like Lee. He feels the episode, he finds the necessary consistency of style when he wants to portray the dope in the head of the main character, he is able to convey emotion in one sentence. The style of the author is a steam locomotive pulling for a worn-out plot.

The fragility of relationships and emotional rehabilitation, these topics Lee reveals with all possible grace. Looking for Mr. Satoshi, the hero of the novel at the same time seeks an answer to the question of who he is himself and he is the man as he was several years ago.

This book is not without flaws, but Lee masks them with elegance.

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