After being blown-away by Confessions, Penance was an obvious choice for me. As a reader, it is natural to have some expectations from the writer whose work you have loved. Though I loved Minato’s Confessions, I think Penance was slightly disappointing compared to it. I usually keep away from books and dramas that deal with sexual assault because I have a visual memory and images of whatever I read automatically get stored in my head. I am a little sensitive and horrid images bother me. So, reading about a little girl being sexually assaulted was very disturbing for me. The synopsis of the book mentions only murder so I wasn’t aware of what I was getting into. The moment I understood something really horrible has happened to the girl I skipped the pages describing the immediate events following the crime. I would have dropped the book completely had I not had faith in Minato’s writing. And as expected Minato’s writing was brilliant. It was her narration that had me hooked on it making me finish it in one sitting.
Penance by Kanae Minato (Translated by Philip Gabriel)
Publisher: Mulholland Books
When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emily by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emily is found murdered hours later.
Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko weren’t able to accurately describe the stranger’s appearance to the police after they Emily’s body was discovered. Asako, Emily’s mother, curses the surviving girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter’s murder.
Like Confessions, Kanae Minato’s award-winning, internationally bestselling debut, Penance is a dark and voice-driven tale of revenge and psychological trauma that will leave readers breathless.
(Description as on Goodreads.com)
I LIKE Penance Because,
…Minato’s story-telling is gripping. Despite feeling perturbed by the crime at the very start of the book, I still stuck to it because of Minato’s compelling writing. The book starts with Emily’s murder and goes on to explain how it altered the minds and lives of every girl who saw Emily’s lifeless body. In the book, each girl is shown to share a unique rapport with Emily and every chapter is the narration of a different girl explaining her side of the story. Each girl’s story is saddening but intriguing to read because they all experienced different kinds of emotions on that fateful day. Even though the events are the same, it is not really repetitive as each character has a different perception of the incident. Their individual backstories and future events had me engrossed in this book.
I Do NOT Like Penance Because,
…as mentioned before, I personally do not like reading books on sexual assaults. However, I do not count that as a minus point for this book. I should have known about it before purchasing it. Every crime novel deals with a different crime and as a reader, I should be strong enough to be able to read all kinds of crimes without feeling so unsettled.
…I felt the final revelation was a little disappointing. After being invested in the book, I was expecting a big revelation uncovering the culprit but when it happened, I felt a little let-down. Even the culprits’ motivation to commit such a heinous crime seemed unconvincing especially considering the fact that the criminal is not a serial offender. But my sister explained that the writer had to show something gruesome enough to scar the minds of the young girls so the writer had the criminal first assault Emily and then murder her so her friends go into shock after seeing her body. Fair enough.
Final View: Totally unputdownable, Penance should be read for Minato’s brilliant narration. However, if you also feel easily disturbed by sexual violence then it is better to skip this one.
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