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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Maid

Tsutsui Yasutaka

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To purchase The Maid

Title: The Maid
Author: Tsutsui Yasutaka
Genre: Novel
Written: 1972 (Eng. 1990)
Length: 217 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: The Maid - US
The Maid - UK
The Maid - Canada
The Maid - India
  • Japanese title: 家族八景
  • Translated by Adam Kabat
  • Previously published as What the Maid Saw: Eight Psychic Tales

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Our Assessment:

B : decent variations on a mind-reading theme

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 23/7/2016 Damian Flanagan

  From the Reviews:
  • "Yasutaka Tsutsui’s picaresque 1972 novel, The Maid, offers a social panorama of Japan in the early ’70s, but many of the stock characters still ring true today: philandering salarymen; obsessive, conceited academics; and self-indulgent, vaguely absurd artists. More dated is the virginal, bland female protagonist who is cast adrift in a sea of male chauvinism. (...) The Maid is an interesting snapshot of the period, but ultimately promises more than it delivers." - Damian Flanagan, The Japan Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Maid is divided into eight chapters, each a station along the way for Nanase Hita, a nineteen-year-old girl working as a maid. Despite being intelligent and quite well-educated Nanase takes on such lowly employment because she believes it will allow her to pass relatively unnoticed -- or rather to allow her gift to pass unnoticed. Nanase can read minds, and she recognizes that it would be dangerous if anyone ever found out about her special ability. Hiding away in households, where she has few people to interact with, seems like an ideal solution; of course, it isn't.
       She may think that, after ten years of reading people's minds, "there was very little that surprised her any more", but the families she winds up working for -- some only very, very briefly -- show that there's still quite a bit for her to get exposed to. Privy to their secrets, Nanase must carefully navigate a variety of characters and their deepest and often darkest thoughts. Tsutsui does this fairly creatively -- nicely contrasting public pronouncements and the corresponding and very different actual thoughts and opinions (and lusts) behind them -- as Nanase is chased out of or flees from household after household, their various peculiarities already too much to withstand the addition of a presence such as hers.
       Nanase also has her secret to protect, terrified of it getting out -- but at one point she has to resort to revealing it to protect herself. Once she does that, however, she has to go all the way, with catastrophic consequences for the person who is made aware of her gifts.
       One household she goes to work in is headed by an academic whose research extends to psychic phenomena -- and who once subjected Nanase's father to a test of ESP abilities; when he finally makes the connection between Nanase and her father he wants to test her too, and an intriguing chess match plays out.
       Tsutsui also knows how to effectively close out a sequence of stories like this, as Nanase's gift ultimately exposes her too the most horrific deed while she finds herself helpless to intervene.
       With its varied cast of characters and Tsutsui making good use of Nanase's ability to see beneath the surface, The Maid offers a nice contrast between superficial appearance and actual thoughts and feelings. Offering both humor and suspense, Tsutsui offers more than eight simple episodes. He tells a decent story, and allows the character of Nanase to grow over the course of the novel. He's also quite adept at presenting her ability -- the way she hears what others are thinking (and feeling), and some of the limitations (including the idea that not all minds work and reveal themselves the same way).
       Hardly exceptional, The Maid is nevertheless a solid, entertaining variation on the mind-reading theme.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 November 2011

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The Maid: Reviews: Tsutsui Yasutaka: Other books by Tsutsui Yasutaka under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Popular Japanese author Tsutsui Yasutaka (筒井 康隆) was born in 1934.

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