25 Aug 2012

The Japanese Godmother of the Fifty Shades Segment

Though "Snakes and Earrings" by Hitomi Kanehara is a short book, very short really, it is one that leaves an impression. The first time I read it was a few years ago. I was on my way out to shop for dinner just as it started raining, so I decided to read for a few minutes to see if it would clear and picked up "Snakes and Earrings" and started on it. It did clear up relatively fast but by then I was deep in reading and I didn't stop reading until I had read the last page. Dinner was delayed by almost two hours.

It is a forceful book and though I rarely say this about any book, this one is not for the fainthearted or for the young. Though it was written by Hitomi Kanehara when she was only 21, I would not recommend it to anyone below the age of 18 as it contains some really explicit scenes of sex and violence.

Lui is a young Japanese woman who is emotionally fragile and depressed. Her boyfriend Ama is an emo, goth type who loves piercings and body modifications and while living with him, Lui starts shedding her pop girl image and exploring the darker fashions, eventually deciding that she wants to split her tongue. To do so she first needs to have her tongue pierced and then gradually make the hole larger and larger. Ama takes her to a friend of his who is specialised in tattoos and piercings and from the very first second there is a fierce sexual chemistry between the piercer and Lui. It is a not a healthy love-at-first sight we are talking about here but a dark, sadomasochistic sexual current. One where there is only a short distance between pleasure and pain, between living and dying.

Kanehara takes her protagonist to the very darkest of places, the deepest despair and a pain that is difficult to handle. It is a beautifully written story. Every word is just right. It is no surprise that it won several awards and has already been made into a film. Don't cheat yourself of this read though you might be repulsed by some of the topics or the actions of the characters - it will stay with you for a long time as it did with me.

Read it if: You want a painful but authentic story that will pierce you with its words. You want a book that deals with sex in a very different way to the 50 Shades type books.


  1. Glad to hear it is not like 50 shades! I can't imagine what it would feel like to have your tongue actually split - wouldn't that make eating and talking very difficult?

  2. It sounds disgusting, doesn't it? I'm kinda glad this book didn't come with pictures, don't think I could have handled that!!