SHOPPING by Gavin Kramer


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Tokyo in all its dazzling, dizzying intensity serves as the intrusive backdrop to this smart if somewhat simplified story about

an odd couple of British lawyers assigned there to work, one of whom fails spectacularly at adapting: a sharply detailed,

prizewinning debut that was short-listed for the 1998 Whitbread.

The narrator, one of the lawyers, a droll, nosy character whose adjustment strategy is threefold—he keeps away from

Japanese women, admires a dissolute, prewar Japanese writer, and befriends a tweed-jacketed Anglophile who's a throwback

to the 19th century—has decided to take his new colleague, the freakish Meadowlark, under wing, if such a term could fit a man

who towers over everyone, in and out of the office. Meadowlark isn't exactly a throwback, even though he does keep a photo

of the queen on the wall of his apartment; eventually he overcomes his awkwardness enough to meet a stylishly dressed Japanese

girl, Sachiko, whom he first observes using her cell phone and schedule-book while sipping a milk shake at McDonald's.

Unfortunately, she turns out to be a schoolgirl, even though very much on the make, and a stormy relationship ensues, which,

as it ends, gets Meadowlark so wound up that he punches out a client and loses his job. He disappears into the vastness of

Tokyo, though Sachiko does not: she next turns up in the company of a peasant-born Japanese millionaire old enough to be her

grandfather. Thinking to expose her activities to her family, however, Meadowlark resurfaces, thereby receiving a final, painful

lesson in matters peculiarly Japanese.

Images of Tokyo today are engagingly rendered with precision and a knowing eye, but the characters in this flashy pool

all stick to the shallow end.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-56947-189-4
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Soho
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2000