Unthank Books http://www.unthankbooks.com
The form (but not the quality) of ‘Killing Daniel’ is what I would describe as a “train crash”. The story starts with two disparate characters, living in the same time, but separated by gulfs of distance and society. These characters are an English woman called Fleur and a Japanese woman called Chinatsu. Having met in adolescence, they think about one another and look forward to a nebulous idea of reunion. The plot advances in opposing directions, one starting in Salford and the other in Japan.
The characterisation of both Fleur and Chinatsu is detailed and fascinating. This is a profoundly female book. As some-one who is learning how to write novels, I devoured the passages which deal with Fleur and Chinatsu because I am trying to be more accurate and consistent in the depiction of female characters. Because they come from such different societies and social classes, I learnt a great deal just from reading this one novel.
Some of this depiction is portrayed in the distance and antagonism between the two women and their various male counterparts and adversaries. Despite the darkness and occasional violence of the intertwining stories, I think men come off rather lightly in this novel. I repeat that this is a female book, but I would not consider it to be a feminist one. It is a novel which simply happens to be told from the points of view of two women.
The narrative (third person, limited omniscience) contains quite a few rhetorical questions. I thought these had been banned by an international treaty in the 1970s. A few of them irritated me, but they all served the useful purpose of showing the self-doubt, guilt about the past and anxiety about the future felt by the main characters.
The men in the book, with the exception of Chinatsu’s husband, are shallow in comparison to the women, but this is also handled in a controlled manner. One of the subtlest and most finely-worked aspects of the story is the relationship between Chinatsu and Tao, her Chinese paramour. This relationship, and its misunderstandings and miscommunications, infuriated me in a way that made for compelling reading.
The settings, as well as the characters, are completely convincing. I have never been to Japan. Most of what I know about Japan is derived from studying the economic and military history of the twentieth century, but all the Japanese details seemed consistent. I also appreciated that they were introduced in order to flesh out character and bring scenes to life, and definitely not to boast, “I’ve been to Japan”.
If I had been born female and capable of having written this book, the ending would have been very different, but I will leave you to decide about that for yourself.