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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Boy in the Earth

Nakamura Fuminori

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To purchase The Boy in the Earth

Title: The Boy in the Earth
Author: Nakamura Fuminori
Genre: Novel
Written: 2005 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 147 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: The Boy in the Earth - US
The Boy in the Earth - UK
The Boy in the Earth - Canada
  • Japanese title: 土の中の子供
  • Translated by Allison Markin Powell
  • Akutagawa Prize, 2005

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Our Assessment:

B : solid if grim personal tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 27/2/2017 .
Wall St. Journal . 21/4/2017 Tom Nolan

  From the Reviews:
  • "Bit by bit, Nakamura fills in some of the details of his leadís backstory, making a character who will initially seem alien to most readers less so. The action builds to a devastating conclusion that explains the title." - Publishers Weekly

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 narrator of The Boy in the Earth is an aimless -- or reeling -- young man. He used to work in sales, but quit and for the past six months has been working as a taxi driver. He admits:

When it came to dealing with other people, sustaining ongoing relationships just didn't come easily for me.
       Even idle chit-chat seems too much for him. A woman, Sayuko, does live with him, but it is a very limited relationship as well, two damaged souls who can just about manage with each other. And so, for example, Sayuko notes: "I'd probably freak out if you ever actually showed signs of life". And while the narrator does turn to literature -- The Castle is one he keeps returning to here -- he admits: "All the books I have are depressing".
       The narrator's parents abandoned him when he was young, and eventually he would up in an orphanage. Along the way he was abused in a variety of horrific ways; it's no wonder he's a damaged soul -- and the story gradually reveals just how damaged he is.
       It actually begins with him getting physically further damaged, in the present, beaten up by a motorcycle gang that he provokes -- his self-destructive streak already on display from early on.
       He certainly has self-esteem issues, too, sick:
     Just of myself, of being totally useless, like an insect waiting to die. I'm good for nothing. Aren't I right ?
       Even much of the violence directed at him over the years seems aimless and purposeless, as if he is brutalized simply because he can be: So, for example, in one instance:
They seemed weary and annoyed as they struck and kicked me; they had no particular hatred or fury, or even curiosity.
       The trigger for his current state appears to be learning that his father was still alive, and that his mother had died. The orphanage lets him know, and eventually he makes a pilgrimage of sorts to that place where he spent much of his youth, dredging up even more old memories.
       Dark and violent -- on more than one occasion the narrator is overpowered by characters who seriously (and/or casually ...) consider killing him -- The Boy in the Earth is the story of a very, very damaged soul who, for the most part, is barely hanging on. It is quite well done, but is indeed very grim -- though the narrator does manage some reckoning with his past, and seems, perhaps, eventually to be able to move on.

- M.A.Orthofer, 30 April 2017

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The Boy in the Earth: Reviews: Nakamura Fuminori: Other books by Nakamura Fuminori under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Nakamura Fuminori (中村 文則) was born in 1977.

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© 2017-2023 the complete review

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