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REVIEW: Butter by Asako Yuzuki

Review by Freya Bennett

I read Butter by Asako Yuzuki over a few weeks. Dipping in and out of its pages was a delicious, comforting experience akin to a warm bowl of noodles, surprising for a book about murder.

Butter delves into the complexities of friendship, self-discovery, and adding to taste, just a dash of murder. Inspired by the true story of Kanae Kijima, “The Konkatsu Killer”, a con woman and talented cook convicted of poisoning three of her male lovers, the story revolves around Rika Machida, a journalist striving for an exclusive interview with Manako Kajii. Kajii, an aspiring cook with a famous blog, sits in Tokyo Detention Centre, convicted of the serial murders of lonely businessmen, who she allegedly seduced with her delicious home cooking. The case has captivated the nation, but Kajii refuses to speak with the press until Rika writes a letter asking for her beef stew recipe.

As the correspondence between Rika and Kajii unfolds, it turns into a masterclass in food rather than a journalistic investigation. Rika, who rarely cooks more than ramen and is the only woman in her news office, finds herself transformed by these exchanges. With each meal she learns to cook, Rika challenges societal beauty standards, ends her situationship amicably, and discovers a newfound appreciation for herself and her friends.

Butter touches on themes of friendship, misogyny, body image and the transgressive joys of food in Japan. Through Rika’s journey, Yuzuki explores these themes with such vivid and gentle prose and while this book wasn’t a page-turner, it was more than that, it was deeply satisfying.

This year, I have particularly enjoyed immersing myself in translated novels, feeling as if I am experiencing two art forms simultaneously. Butter exemplifies this, with the collaboration between Yuzuki and Barton making it a delightful read and one I highly recommend. Five stars!

Freya Bennett

Freya Bennett is the Co-Founder and Director of Ramona Magazine. She is a writer and editor from Dja Dja Wurrung Country who loves grey days, libraries and dandelion tea. You can follow her on Instagram @freya___bennett

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