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By Sujata Massey
HarperCollins April, 2000 (HC)

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

This is the fourth in a series of books featuring Rei Shimura, a Japanese-American who is trying to make a living in Japan. Ordinarily she covers her living expenses by buying and selling Japanese antiques for tourists, and others who can't or don't want to make the purchases themselves. This time out, she's been forced to take on a part-time job writing about antiques for a Japanese newspaper aimed at foreigners, called the Gaijin Times. A shift in editorial policy leaves Rei scrambling to research and write an article on the artistic value of manga (animation comic books) so popular in Japan. The assigment is complicated by the fact that Rei can't read Japanese very well. She must ask for assistance in translating the often violent and sexually explicit magazines from her current boyfriend, Takeo Kayama.

THE FLOATING GIRL may satisfy readers who are already fans of the Rei Shimura series, but I doubt that it will win over any new readers unless they begin at the very beginning of the series with THE SALARYMAN'S WIFE and then read the books in order. (ZEN ATTITUDE, THE FLOWER MASTER)

The front cover claims this is a novel of suspense. I found very little suspense in the text. I liked the first three books in the series but there is something missing from this book. Perhaps Ms. Massey was trying to appeal to a wider audience? A less Japanese enamored audience? A younger audience? Big mistake.

I was mildly disappointed in THE FLOATING GIRL from the outset. There seems to be less Japanese-ness to enjoy -- less Japanese terminology, fewer Japanese intricacies of society, less story, and less overall of what first attracted me to the series. The only thing that comes to mind that I did like was that Rei has finally dumped the Scottish lawyer boyfriend. As to other recurring characters, I thought they were poorly handled. Yes, Rei acknowledges that certain characters have been a part of her recent experiences, but you must already know who they were and what they did in the previous books or try your hand at guessing. This lack of integration of recurring characters disrupts the already overly convoluted storyline.

The manga (animation) storyline quickly became boring to me. I do have a few copies of manga magazines myself (the kind designed to help learn Japanese, not the violent, sexually explicit ones) which aren't boring at all. They're quite fun to read! I don't understand what went wrong with the storyline in THE FLOATING GIRL other than to say, that as it is written, the storyline doesn't fill out a novel length book, it is more suited to a short story. And please, now that we all know that Rei is finally getting some good sex, could we move on to other, more interesting parts of her life?

As I mentioned earlier, I was disappointed in the quality of writing and storyline in THE FLOATING GIRL. Neither were up to the standards we've come to expect from Ms. Massey. I paid full price ($24.00 plus tax) for the book which adds to the sting of disappointment. By all means, yes, read the other books in the series, but check this one out of the library or wait until it is published in paperback.

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