Hotel Iris is a disturbing read. What starts off as a tranquil setting in some coastal Japanese town turns into a tale of misplaced love, sexual bondage, and subservience.
Mari, the only child of an innkeeper, from which the titular hotel takes it’s name, witnesses an aging guest arguing with a prostitute on a stormy night – in what was probably a transaction gone sour.
After that episode at the inn, the 17 year-old sees the old man again in town, and out of curiosity, trails him, only to be discovered.
From there, the odd couple strike up a friendship (and relationship) that is superficially cordial, but sexually perverted. There’s a ‘master & slave’ aspect to this, and it reflects Mari’s own relationship with her mother – where she is the epitome of piety to the outside world.
As the old man’s and Mari’s relationship grows, the old man’s mute nephew turns up to complicate the affair. Things go awry when old man discovers that Mari had slept with his nephew. Mari gets into a situation where the conclusion results in a chaotic and tragic end.
Pick up this book for a glimpse of the fractured layers within Japanese polite society. It certainly opened my eyes. A good, and short, read nonetheless.