British author Kramer sets his entertaining debut novel amid the neon lights and high-fashion, high-tech madness of bustling Tokyo, where a chilly Englishman embarks on an unusually mysterious and frustrating erotic adventure with a 16-year-old Japanese girl. Alistair Meadowlark, an awkwardly tall, perpetually bumbling expatriate lawyer, takes a two-year assignment in Japan, endeavoring to make his employers happy and his parents proud. Holding up the ideals of duty and honor, 34-year-old Meadowlark is dull but seemingly infallible and incorruptible, never partaking in the flesh parade of the red-light district. Never, that is, until he meets Sachiko, an exceedingly glamorous fashionista schoolgirl with whom he becomes obsessed. The narrator is an unnamed colleague and fellow expatriate who charts Meadowlark's trajectory towards a nervous breakdown as he falls for the icy, childishly demanding but alluring clotheshorse. Like all other young Japanese women in the novel, she is painted as materialistic in the extreme. Sachiko finds little use for her Caucasian suitors except to milk them for the latest Prada, Chanel and Gucci outfits. When she moves on to a richer beau, the distraught Meadowlark takes out his frustrations on a client and loses his job at the law firm. In a comedic denouement that just keeps getting nuttier, he storms Sachiko's home and proceeds to show her parents compromising photos of their daughter. The East vs. West culture clash is reiterated throughout the book, as is the cultural clash between generations of Japanese: teens see their workaholic ""salarymen"" fathers as pedestrian stiffs and wealthy ""gaijin"" as a ticket to a more luxurious lifestyle. Meanwhile, salarymen, expats and billionaires alike are agog at petulant baby-women like Sachiko. Kramer's measured narrative style turns what could be a mere exhibition of high-rolling, high-tech and high-contrast Tokyo into an absorbing cautionary tale. Agent, Henry Dunow. (Apr.) FYI: Shopping won the 1998 David Higham Prize and the 1999 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and was short-listed for 1999's Whitbread Award.
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Hardcover - 215 pages - 978-1-85702-958-1
Hardcover - 215 pages - 978-1-85702-807-2
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