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The Goddess Chronicle Hardcover – July 23, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate U.S.; Uncorrected Advance Proof edition (July 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802121098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802121097
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,084,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Kirino is best known for her award-winning crime fiction, including the teenage noir, Real World (2008), and the struggle of a prostitute in Grotesque (2007). With her latest novel to be translated into English, Kirino steps away from the crime-fiction form to rework the legend of Japan’s genesis into a tale of betrothal, betrayal, and vengeance. According to myth, Izanami was killed by her husband, Izanagi, and sentenced to rule the Realm of the Dead. Similarly, Kirino’s character Namima, a 16-year-old who breaks the taboos of her island home, and who regains consciousness to find that she’s been strangled by Mahito, her betrothed. Namima meets the goddess Izanami in the underworld, and the two work together to uncover Mahito’s selfish motivations. While ostensibly a departure from her familiar genre, Kirino’s foray into folklore shares similarities with her earlier novels, namely, female characters who, wronged by lovers, choose to resist societal expectations and fight to rectify injustice. Readers who enjoy crime fiction or re-envisioned myth will find that this imaginative veneer works well on such reliable scaffolding. --Diego Báez

Review

"Kirino wows with her latest novel . . . [her] elegant writing brings Namima—a tragic, sympathetic heroine—to vivid life. Readers will devour this tragic story and be left transformed." —Publishers Weekly

"Both realistic and dreamlike . . . Kirino writes lyrically as she spins a magical and ethereal tale." —Kirkus Reviews

"Kirino’s foray into folklore shares similarities with her earlier novels, namely, female characters who, wronged by lovers, choose to resist societal expectations and fight to rectify injustice. Readers who enjoy crime fiction or re-envisioned myth will find that this imaginative veneer works well on such reliable scaffolding." —Booklist

"A dark and lovely feminist retelling of the Japanese creation myth." —NPR.com

"Kirino captures the rivalry-laced love of sisters, the bitterness of the female role in mythology and the destructive powers of yearning for vengeance." —Shelf Awareness

"[An] enthralling tale of love, death and sisterhood. . . . It serves to immerse us in a world and mythology very different from our own. And yet, in the end, not so different." —Washington Independent Review of Books

"Charged with the power of Japanese myth, tempered by the author’s resonant prose, and propelled by a young woman’s love and sorrow, The Goddess Chronicle is a haunting fable, a literary phantasia." —Alan Brennert, author of Moloka’i and Honolulu

"Kirino is a master at creating an atmosphere of unease and distrust between her characters. In her skillful hands we see that the divide between man and woman is greater than the one between humans and gods. . . . [The Goddess Chronicle] is a taut, disturbing and timeless tale, filled with rage and pathos for the battles that women have to fight every day, battles which have, apparently, existed from the moment of creation." —The Guardian (UK)

"The central narrative is lyrical, with an impelling storyline that demands attention . . . This is a compelling tale, with foundations in an allegory-rich fable that more than deserves its rejuvenation." —The Independent (UK)

"Kirino enjoys depicting her heavenly characters as capricious and temperamental, much like the Greek gods. Yet despite the very human motivations of all involved, Kirino maintains an air of intriguing supernatural strangeness." —Metro (UK)

"A spectacle that includes multiple layers of opposing forces . . . [Kirino] uniquely depicts an unruly mythological world." —Shincho Magazine

"In her wildly far-reaching tale of relations between gods and men, men and women, life and death, darkness and light, Kirino tells a peripatetic, global, and truly satisfying love story of how it is to be human." —Stella Duffy

"If you have enough time, I’m going to recommend you sit down and read this one straight through. . . . Although The Goddess Chronicle is not a mystery story, per se, I felt the same kind of insistent tug to read on that I get when reading mysteries." —Three Percent

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Laurie A. Brown VINE VOICE on November 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Sisters Kamikuu and Namima are inseparable as little girls, so it’s a shock when one day they are forcibly separated. Kamikuu, the older sister, stands for light and will be trained to be the isolated island’s new Oracle, separated from the rest of the tribe, her only contact with Namima being a few words when Namima delivers her basket of food for the day. One day, the teen Namima is informed that she will be the servant of darkness and guard the cave where the dead are stored, as is ever the fate of the sister of the Oracle. This, she thinks, is the worst fate possible. Little does she know that worse awaits when her lover betrays her.

Namima narrates this story, which interweaves with the story of Izanami, the Goddess of the Underworld, who likewise had a faithless lover, Izanaki. Readers who know Japanese mythology will recognize those names; this book is one of the ‘Myths’ series put out by Canongate wherein famous writers retell the old stories. Izanami and Izanaki are part of an ancient creation myth as the parents of the islands of Japan. When Izanami died, Izanaki trapped her in the underworld and went about impregnating mortal women, who Izanami then killed. The moral of The Goddess Chronicle seems to be that males, whether they be god or mortal, are tricky beings only after one thing and women are destined to die because of them.

The book is somewhat dry but well written. My problem with it is that it seemed a bit simplistic: women die because of men. I can see that being true in the age when the myth arose; childbirth was dangerous and frequent; men ruled and took what they wanted. But to make that the point of a book today seems dated; it’s like a feminist book from the 1970s where the women were all good and the men all bad (and if a woman was bad, it was because a man caused them to be). Nonetheless, I enjoyed it and found myself caught up in Namima’s story, rooting for something bad to happen to her erstwhile lover.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By bmbower on November 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The first part of this book is strange and beautiful and claustrophobic. Our narrator details a cruel and ritual-bound life on an isolated island, where girls get blessed or cursed to be servants of gods and the island chief stuffs old people into huts to die when the island becomes overpopulated. Our hero has her sister, then her mother, taken from her as part of the rituals. Even worse, she is forced to hang around corpses, never to speak to other islanders again. Little wonder she breaks the rules, has an affair, and flees the island with her lover.

But then the story digresses into a repetitive and dull view of suffering and dying. Our narrator dies for her man when he murders her. Her goddess "dies" for her man. Her sister kills herself for her man. The goddess of the underworld kills women who slept with her god husband, so they essentially die for their man. While the descriptions of the pillared halls and flickering spirits of the underworld are wonderfully weird, the protagonist's acceptance and indulgence in her own suffering comes off as unneeded histrionics.

I do believe some people are forever scarred by their pain, and it ends up defining them. But this story was such a romanticized version of that suffering and indulgence that it started to feel like farce. It reminded me simultaneously of the scene in Funny Girl when Fanny Brice plops her head onto the table to express suffering (in a great comical moment), the Soup Nazi's face in Seinfeld when Kramer reminds him how he suffers for his soup, and the "Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me" group from Hee Haw, something I doubt the author or translator intended.

There are also other issues.
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Format: Paperback
In a poor ancient Japanese island culture, Natsuo Kirino shows primitive religious power regimes as a specific example of social structures which are inimical to human life. Finding love, freedom and personhood means escaping their male dominated rules, which only a heroic few seek to do, but this in turn forces cycles of betrayal and bitterness which haunt human life from beyond the grave. It’s a gripping plot. Her female goddess dispenses retributive, vindictive death. There is, according to Kirino’s myth, no redeeming grace, no ultimate light.

Geoff Crocker Editor Atheist Spirituality web site
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alyssa Greatbanks on December 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
For the first few pages I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book, but after the initial explanations and the story took off I found myself hooked.

You don't need to know anything about the mythologies in the book to enjoy it, it was very well written and easy to understand either way. It had a very good story, something touching that will stay with you long after you read it.
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