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The Woman in the Purple Skirt: A Novel (Hardcover)
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“A taut and compelling depiction of loneliness and obsession.” --Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train
“[It] will keep you firmly in its grip.” --Oyinkan Braithwaite, bestselling author of My Sister, the Serial Killer
“The love child of Eugene Ionesco and Patricia Highsmith.” --Kelly Link, bestselling author of Get in Trouble
A bestselling, prizewinning novel by one of Japan's most acclaimed young writers, for fans of Convenience Store Woman, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, and the movies Parasite and Rear Window
I think what I'm trying to say is that I've been wanting to become friends with the Woman in the Purple Skirt for a very long time...
Almost every afternoon, the Woman in the Purple Skirt sits on the same park bench, where she eats a cream bun while the local children make a game of trying to get her attention. Unbeknownst to her, she is being watched--by the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan, who is always perched just out of sight, monitoring which buses she takes, what she eats, whom she speaks to.
From a distance, the Woman in the Purple Skirt looks like a schoolgirl, but there are age spots on her face, and her hair is dry and stiff. She is single, she lives in a small apartment, and she is short on money--just like the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan, who lures her to a job as a housekeeper at a hotel, where she too is a housekeeper. Soon, the Woman in the Purple Skirt is having an affair with the boss and all eyes are on her. But no one knows or cares about the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. That's the difference between her and the Woman in the Purple Skirt.
Studiously deadpan and chillingly voyeuristic, and with the off-kilter appeal of the novels of Ottessa Moshfegh, The Woman in the Purple Skirt explores envy, loneliness, power dynamics, and the vulnerability of unmarried women in a taut, suspenseful narrative about the sometimes desperate desire to be seen.
About the Author
Natsuko Imamura is one of Japan's most exciting writers. Nominated three times for the Akutagawa Prize, the most prestigious literary award in Japan, she won it in 2019 for The Woman in the Purple Skirt. A self-professed fan of Yoko Ogawa's, she has been called "a second Sayaka Murata" (the author of Convenience Store Woman) for her use of acerbic humor and satire. Born in Hiroshima, she now lives in Osaka with her husband and their daughter. Like the main character in The Woman in the Purple Skirt, she has worked in a hotel as a housekeeper.
Named a Best Book of the Summer by Elle, Vulture, Oprah Daily, Chicago Tribune, CrimeReads, Palm Beach Daily News, and Refinery29
“I’m a sucker for tales about female friendships that slide into obsession. . . . Not just another cheap thriller with a ‘you can’t trust anyone’ conceit, Imamura’s latest is like Anita Brookner’s Look at Me, reimagined by a surrealist.” ―Hillary Kelly, Vulture
“[A] hair-raising tale of psychological suspense.” ―Oprah Daily
“As unusual as it is alluring.” ―Elle
“An unsettling story of obsession that you never see coming.” ―Chicago Tribune
“Delightfully disturbing . . . Imamura does weird singularly well, and keeps the suspense taut throughout the novel, always teasing an answer to the questions: Why this woman? What makes her so special? What makes any of us worth watching at all?” ―Refinery29
“A tale of slapstick and stalking . . . An off-kilter farce, in which the protagonist’s poker-faced lack of embarrassment heightens the comedy . . . This book won Japan’s prestigious Akutagawa Prize, also awarded to Sayaka Murata, the author of the bestselling Convenience Store Woman and Earthlings, with whose dislocated protagonists Imamura’s narrator shares more than a shred of DNA.” ―Financial Times
“Disquieting and wryly funny, The Woman in the Purple Skirt is a taut and compelling depiction of loneliness and obsession.” ―Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train
“I tore through this novel. Grippingly and intimately told, with prose as tight as a wire, The Woman in the Purple Skirt is a quick and powerful jab to the heart.” ―Jami Attenberg, New York Times bestselling author of The Middlesteins
“Imamura offers her readers crisp, refreshing prose. The Woman in the Purple Skirt will keep you firmly in its grip with its persistent, disquieting, matter-of-fact style.” ―Oyinkan Braithwaite, bestselling author of My Sister, the Serial Killer
“A breathless novel that depicts with sly humor the strange relationship between two women in contemporary Japan. You too will be obsessed with the Woman in the Purple Skirt and held in suspense until the last page.” ―Leila Slimani, bestselling author of The Perfect Nanny
“Delightful, droll, and menacing, this novel about a seemingly harmless obsession could be the love child of Eugene Ionesco and Patricia Highsmith.” ―Kelly Link, bestselling author of Get in Trouble
“Very powerful . . . Meticulous and extremely precise . . . Reading this book made me feel like I was in an unstable and strange world.” ―Sayaka Murata, bestselling author of Convenience Store Woman
“The Woman in the Purple Skirt is like a love story overheard on a park bench. It’s a thriller about commutes, work schedules, and unemployment. It’s a bottle of hotel shampoo that makes its way into your shower, and you can’t seem to remember how it got there. What profound and giddy prose; I could not put this book down. Imamura is a glorious architect of perspective, surprising and breaking this reader’s heart at every turn.” ―Hilary Leichter, author of Temporary
“Imamura definitely has a rare talent for depicting people who are a little out of the ordinary. . . . By the time I got to the end, a powerful sense of the narrator’s loneliness forcing its way through the madness gripped my heart.” ―Yoko Ogawa, author of The Memory Police
“Reading this novel, you can really hear Natsuko Imamura’s unique voice, which comes across quite unsparingly and beautifully.” ―Hiromi Kawakami, author of Strange Weather in Tokyo and The Nakano Thrift Shop
“A superb story . . . I was mesmerized by this narrator. Unlikable men who hold our sympathy are frequently found in fiction, but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a woman as unappealing as this one who still managed to keep me completely beguiled.” ―Shuichi Yoshida, author of Villain
“The Woman in the Purple Skirt expertly balances the mundane and the extraordinary, never swerving too far toward one side. With clinical prose and a wry sense of humor, Imamura shows us that the most powerful portrayal of loneliness is through not the self, but the projection of the self onto another.” ―An Yu, author of Braised Pork
“[This] taut psychological thriller . . . has all the hallmarks of a future bestseller. . . . A chilling tale of envy and vulnerability.” ―Vogue (U.K.)
“Clever, wry and disturbing . . . A sharp examination of personality and persona and the small terrors of everyday life.” ―The Irish Times
“A novel unlike anything that’s come before it . . . This strange and unsettling story about control and paranoia will likely take 2021 by storm.” ―Metropolis
“A defiant and hysterical ode to the power of the woman alone.” ―CrimeReads
“[A] deadpan novel by one of Japan’s most lauded young writers.” ―Molly Young, Vulture
“Striking . . . [An] intriguing psychological thriller of sorts, a study of a damaged soul and how she shapes the world around her . . . Quite appealing, with just enough disturbing creepiness to it to keep the reader on edge.” ―The Complete Review
“The perfect voyeuristic story.” ―Palm Beach Daily News
“A taut, suspenseful narrative.” ―International Examiner
“Sparkles with a style that is clean, understated and funny. The brand of humor―quirky, acerbic, absurd―has much in common with Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman. . . . The novel brims with that vague, metropolitan loneliness that seems a feature of much contemporary Japanese writing. . . . In a world that was already grappling with a loneliness epidemic before Covid-19, Imamura’s book is a timely read.” ―The Straits Times
“Deliciously creepy . . . Imamura’s pacing is as deft and quick as the best thrillers, but her prose is also understated and quietly subtle. . . . A subtly ominous story about voyeurism and the danger of losing yourself in someone else . . . A resounding success.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Imamura’s spare, intense prose calls to mind Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman with an extra edge of danger.” ―Booklist
“Graceful . . . The narrator’s intense one-way nonsexual desire creates an off-balance frisson of strangeness . . . infused with the power of fascination. . . . [For] psychological thriller fans who appreciate subtlety.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Sparse and suspenseful. It reads like a sophisticated episode of Black Mirror. If you are looking for a book that you will devour in a single sitting and then think about forever, look no further.” ―Musing: A Publication of Parnassus Books
“Readable and entertaining . . . It’s as if a mirage appeared and then suddenly disappeared. . . . A mysterious novel.” ―Shukan Shincho
“Horrifying, humorous, whimsical, and disturbing . . . It will remain with you.” ―Tokyo Shimbun