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Book Club > 10/17 The Graveyard Apartment by Koike Mariko

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message 1: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston | 704 comments This thread is for our October discussion of The Graveyard Apartment by Koike Mariko.

message 2: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston | 704 comments I'm over a third of the way into this, but I'll avoid spoilers for the benefit of those who haven't started reading it yet.

The Japanese title of this novel more literally is "Home Looking Down on a Graveyard." Not that I have any problem with the translated title.

This book is reminiscent of the movie Poltergeist. I remember liking Poltergeist as a kid, as a movie, but I think if I'd read it as a book I would have respected it less. Aren't we all a bit more demanding of literature?

The big difference, and one which makes Poltergeist more plausible (following the dictum that fantasy is plausible impossibility while science fiction is implausible possibility) than The Graveyard Apartment is the introduction of the supernatural. In Poltergeist the supernatural isn't talked about until the disappearance of the youngest child, and her parents are willing to do and believe absolutely anything to get her back. That's plausible pragmatism. In The Graveyard Apartment we get the more implausible situation where the supernatural creeps up on the residents of the building, yet these near strangers openly discuss their unbelievable experiences and whatever supernatural affinities they have. People just aren't open like that about things that will cause acquaintances to possibly question their sanity.

I was going to relate something about Japanese graveyards, but that turns out to not be necessary. The 'ancient' graveyard mentioned in the opening is revealed around page 125 to be only 70 or so years old (pretty young for a graveyard). It's specifically described as a western-style graveyard where bodies are buried whole in coffins rather than cremated, and perhaps looks much like the US cover of the book that I originally rolled my eyes at.

I expect more similarities to Poltergeist going forward, and in this I hope to be disappointed.

message 3: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1229 comments Wait! Wait! Bill, we still want to know about Japanese graveyards.

message 4: by Tim (new)

Tim | 152 comments Carol wrote: "Wait! Wait! Bill, we still want to know about Japanese graveyards."

This. I'm genuinely interested in the graveyard research.

Alright, time to post my non-spoiler thoughts on the book.


I really, really did not like this. I would stress this further, but I won't as I don't want to discourage discussion or keep people from expressing if they love it (everyone has different opinions, and I for one encourage that!). I disliked the characters, the constant attempts at rationalization and the simple fact that once everyone else decided that maybe staying in the apartment complex isn't the best idea, our family just keeps on rolling with it.

The book itself is your standard haunted house story, with the only thing really new brought to it is that instead of a house, we have an apartment complex. This had so much potential in my mind, as you could have multiple families experiencing the haunting, but instead we only focus on one family and most of the other characters are dropped fairly quickly.

I became so frustrated that I confess to doing something I rarely do... I started skimming the book. I hoped that I would see something interesting later to keep me going... instead I saw things that annoyed me. I read the end, and officially declared that I had zero interest in finishing the entire thing.

I suggested this one, and for that I apologize. I particularly apologize for not finishing said book I suggested... but I just can't make it through this one. This is thus far the only book for this club that I just hated; and I do find some humor in that it's the one I brought up. :D

message 5: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston | 704 comments Nothing to apologize for, Tim. It was on my to-buy list, so I would have bought it eventually.

message 6: by Ian (new)

Ian Josh | 270 comments I didn't hate it quite as much as it seems many did (while I believe others are choosing not to read it)

It has some real holes, and a lot of things that didn't work, but just for fun I'll comment on the one thing I believe did work.

If you thought this would be a graveyard based story, it's purely disappointing and fails. However, I'll say that for me it succeeded in a style/genre I never imagined excited. I think in some ways this succeeds as a "economic horror". (Some of this might be boring household economics talk, so feel free to stop here)

My meaning here, is that if you ignore the supernatural part, which is hit and miss, but simply allow for empathy towards the situation then the you might see the real horror. This family bought a house in an area where they could not afford to live, Tokyo. However, they got a steal of a deal, at 35 million yen( or around there I think). In Japan that means about a thousand dollars/month American on a 35 year loan. That's not terribly expensive compared to other countries because of low interest rates, however, with the father's age, and job title, I'd guess he might make less than 5 million yen a year, and clear maybe somewhere around 250,000yen/2300$ or less after taxes and deductions. (Japan's salary's tend to be lower than many countries, especially before 40 years of age). Minus 1000 for his loan, and probably 200 apartment building costs, and 300 for utilities. So 800 left. 3 person family in Tokyo probably needs 400 or more for food... and that kindergarten at at least 400, probably leaves you with 0, or minus cash flow. Adding another 1500 dollars of rent for a new place is literally impossible.

The reason the author returns to idea if the mother needing to work, but being unable to finish her jobs, unable to help her family financially, is that that is the true "horror" of the situation. They can not escape. The ghost and what else comes is less important, because it's this situation, this burden of poverty that is killing this family.

To be honest, the lackluster ghost story only undermines this trap that the family is stuck in. I wish the ghosts had been a bit more subtle for much longer, and allowed the terror to just be the continuous abandonment by other tenants able to afford an escape, until the family is just alone... likely at that point a sudden attack of the supernatural could have worked, instead of the random attacks that I'm sure made many think, who cares about the money, just leave.

So, I didn't love this book, maybe a 2.5 or less for me, but to be honest, I thought it was a more enjoyable read than September's

message 7: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston | 704 comments I spent the evening reading the rest of the novel. Normally it's not a good idea to read a horror novel until just before bed, but really this isn't all that scary. I'm just glad it's over and I can start some other book tomorrow.

Normally I'd rate this a 2, but with Goodreads' skewed rating system (in their minds a 2 is 'okay') I have to give this a 1 as well.

message 8: by Rhea (new)

Rhea (rheashell) I don't normally do horror. I wouldn't say "I don't like to be
scared", but there's usually something that depresses me about
them instead. Like for example, Lolita being on my horror shelf.
I bet you can imagine how that made me feel.

I did like how it did atmosphere for most of the book. I went and
looked up the Black Swallowtail. The one I got directed to,
Papilio polyxenes (this could be Wikipedia's bias) is New World
only. So I don't know if that was supposed to be an extra creepy
sign, translator screw-up, or Wikipedia leading me astray about
butterflies. Because there are related species that are in Japan
they just don't tell me if they're black or not.

I hate to say it but I only actively liked Cookie and sort of liked
the child. Teppei came across as a jerk, and Misao didn't make much of an impression on me for some reason.

I do like the economic horror interpretation. That's much more horrifying.

Also I laughed at the last page.

message 9: by Suki (new)

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 54 comments I finally cleared this one off my TBR pile. I didn't hate it-- I liked the buildup of the creepy atmosphere, and I really liked Josh's interpretation that the real horror was the family's economic situation. The empty apartment building reminded me a bit of Strangers by Taichi Yamada (although that was a more benevolent ghost story), and the last few scenes (voices in the basement, creepy elevator), had the feel of The Shining movie.

As others in this thread have stated, the responses of the people living in the building to the phenomena they were experiencing seemed odd. The thing I really didn't understand is why the young family spent the last night in their old apartment instead of at the new house, especially when they saw what had happened to the caretakers on their moving day. It also seemed a bit weird that the other tenants they had been friendly with had never checked up on them.

It definitely wasn't a great read, but it did give me chills and I was invested enough to finish it, just in case there was a surprise twist at the end.

message 10: by J (new)

J | 67 comments Suki wrote: "The empty apartment building reminded me a bit of Strangers by Taichi Yamada ..."

Just wanted to respond to this and say that I enjoyed Yamada Taichi's Strangers, and was sorry to see he doesn't have many books translated into English (I think the other one is In Search of a Distant Voice). I do agree Strangers is a more benevolent ghost story and found it rather melancholy and thoughtful.

message 11: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston | 704 comments I didn't care for In Search of a Distant Voice, but I'll still give I Haven't Dreamed of Flying for a While a try when I find a copy.

message 12: by Suki (last edited Nov 23, 2018 07:22AM) (new)

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 54 comments J wrote: "Suki wrote: "The empty apartment building reminded me a bit of Strangers by Taichi Yamada ..."

Just wanted to respond to this and say that I enjoyed Yamada Taichi's Strangers, and was sorry to see..."

There is also I Haven't Dreamed of Flying for a While. I thought Strangers was the best of the three.

message 13: by Suki (new)

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 54 comments Bill wrote: "I didn't care for In Search of a Distant Voice, but I'll still give I Haven't Dreamed of Flying for a While a try when I find a copy."

I liked Strangers a lot, but I wasn't as fond of the other two.

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