Book Review: Netsuke

By: Rikki Ducornet
Published by: Coffee House Press
US Release date: May 1, 2011
Buy it at Amazon
This book is appropriate for adults.
Source: I own it

Summary from Goodreads:
Ruled by his hunger for erotic encounters, a deeply wounded psychoanalyst seduces both patients and strangers with equal heat. Driven to compartmentalize his life, the doctor attempts to order and contain his lovers as he does his collection of rare netsuke, the precious miniature sculptures gifted to him by his wife. This riveting exploration of one psychoanalyst’s abuse of power unearths the startling introspection present within even the darkest heart.

My thoughts:
I won this Advanced Reader Copy from the GoodReads First Reads program. I signed up to win the book because of my interest in psychology. I thought it would be a refreshing diversion from my usual diet of Young Adult literature.

Refreshing it was not. I found it crude and distasteful. The storyline focuses on justification of indecent behavior. The constant use of the f-word actually took away from the shock value of the word. The one thing that I need in order to enjoy a book is to be able to identify with the main character in some way; to find some redeeming character trait. This main character didn’t have one, so I didn’t really care about him, making it was very hard for me to care about the story.

However, this book isn’t written to be refreshing; it’s meant to peel away to façade of acceptability that the main character has created and show the monster within. The reader is meant to allow herself to dislike him, because he is truly despicable. The majority of the book’s 127 pages are spent in the part of his life that the main character hides from the world: the disturbing, twisted encounters he arranges, despite the fact that neither his wife nor his colleagues would approve. This book is no vacation from real life; it’s engaging work.

A diversion it was. The look inside this insidious character was dark and horrifying, especially considering he was justifying his behavior as behavioral research and therapy for his clients. Once I gave myself permission to really despise the guy, it was interesting to observe how his meticulous separation between his public life and his illicit encounters eroded over time, eventually causing him to feel forced into such a violent, tragic ending.

One element the book that especially stuck with me was the wife. She played the part of the sacrificial lamb; the woman had little warning that her husband had such secrets, and when she started to realize something was wrong, it was too late. I would have liked to read more from her point of view, though having included that would have interrupted the flow of the narrative. I don’t think I would have minded.


  1. Thanks!
    It was actually refreshing to read a review about a book which was not that good. :)

  2. I'm forcing myself not to read this review because I've signed up to possibly win a copy from Library Thing and I don't want to color my own review. If I don't win, however, I'll definitely be back to see what you've said because I thought the plot sounded interesting.

  3. inga, thanks- I know that personally, I usually just don't review it if I didn't enjoy a book. I went ahead with this one because I felt that an honest review was the least I could do in return for winning the book.

    gabrielreads- I will be interested in seeing your thoughts! Please let me know where your review is posted.


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