Title: Who is Mr Satoshi?
Author: Jonathan lee
Genre: family/ death/ mystery
Review: The novel opens somewhere in the Home Counties and Rob Fossick is attending his mother’s funeral. The event in itself is extremely distressing and also depressing for him; factor in that he’s become a bit of a recluse lately and I could feel the sheer loneliness creeping into Rob’s very bones. Lee describes the event as Zimmer frames, bifocals, trifocals, dark grey coats with yawning shoulders. The apparatus of old age.
Rob is now forced to sort out his mother’s things and in doing so finds a parcel addressed to this Mr Satoshi. Apparently he’s living somewhere in Japan. Rob’s relationship with his mother had been rather brittle, shall we say, of late and now it’s as if he’s trying to salve his conscience by ‘doing the right thing’ ie: I’ll make sure mother’s parcel gets to where it needs to go. And as you’d expect, easier said than done. And so we enter into the story proper, if you like and Rob glibly decides to take himself off to Japan (as you do). But is it all just a wild goose chase?
The reader is given a potted history of mother and son’s relationship down the years. Rob has been well aware of gaps in his mother’s life but apparently she didn’t want to talk about it. And currently Rob has his own issues to deal with. He’s doing his best with the help of medication but he knows deep down that he’s simply existing – he’s not living a proper meaningful life. So he thinks a complete change of scenery may just do the trick. But does it? And at this point, Lee’s knowledge of all things Japanese kicks in. The reader is presented with lots of facts regarding Japan and its people. From food to fashion, it’s all there.
And while all this is interesting – to a point – it felt a little contrived at times. As the novel progresses with the aid of ‘colourful’ characters (some less colourful than others, I have to say) I almost saw the joins in the novel at this point. It was not seamless writing, in my opinion. It was as if Lee, by hook or by crook, was going to impart this knowledge regardless. Sometimes, less is more. And some of his characters work better than others. For example, the rather forward twentysomething female Japanese student came across relatively well but at times the actions of her character did appear a little stilted. Obviously, I won’t spoil the story but this Mr Satoshi is not what he seems and that particular quest of Rob’s to try and find out more about him is interesting.
Rob appears to be a very patient man. Here he is with this package. It’s not even his, for goodness sake and will anyone know, or even care, if he puts it in the bin? Or, he could simply rip it open and discover its contents. It does seem ultra-risky and a bit silly to be travelling thousands of miles at great expense of both time and money – for what exactly? But then, that’s the whole story. It works – up to a point. Will Rob’s journey be worth it?
Personally, I would have shortened the book’s title to the punchier sounding Mr Satoshi but that’s just my own opinion. Essentially, this novel centres on the secretive Mr Satoshi and of his links – or otherwise – to the central character and his recently-deceased mother. Enjoyable – but only just.
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