Book Review: Red Days by M L Sparrow (published by M L Sparrow)
Red Days is a novella rather than a novel and tells the story of Keiko, an English woman of Japanese descent. She is a journalist for a small newspaper in London and her world is changed forever when her editor sends her to Japan to report on the annual Taiji dolphin slaughter after a (real-life) documentary called The Cove airs at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. The film shines a light on the horror of Japanese fishermen who herd and kill dolphins for the meat as well as capture some for aquariums, marine parks and ‘swim with dolphin’ establishments around the world. This story is based on true events and starts in 2009, into present day and onwards in the author’s imagination.
Clearly a lot of research has gone into this story, it is a topic that disgusts so many around the world, but is one that is sadly *still* happening and this book definitely helps to raise awareness of the issue. The dolphin hunt ‘season’ lasts for six months and is claimed by the fisherman to be part of their culture, although, as Red Days made clear, many Japanese don’t realise it happens and the Government claims it’s because there are too many dolphins in the sea eating all the fish, so it is a form of pest control (seriously!).
The barbaric slaughter is made all the worse because dolphins are intelligent, social, family focused creatures and the method in which they are herded together towards shore and then picked off and killed in a mass, bloody frenzy causes such terror, pain and distress to the dolphins that it is wholly inhumane. Basically, imagine all your family and loved ones herded together in a room and then a load of people with big spears surround you and pick you off by cutting your throat or driving a metal pin into your neck to sever your brainstem, whilst you’re covered in blood waiting until it’s your turn. Yeah, pretty horrific. But if you’re a lucky one, you are captured and taken for a life in captivity in a tank that’s probably far too small for you and forced to perform tricks for food to amuse some humans…
After Keiko’s first visit to witness the slaughter in person she decides to raise awareness of the issue and does what she can by writing articles, blogging, petitioning and protesting. She also returns to Japan numerous times to help with the activists who base themselves in Taiji during the hunting season. This story is interwoven with Keiko’s life, her boyfriend, parents, visiting grandparents, husband, wanting a baby, moving home, job at the newspaper etc, so it is not all gruesome slaughter.
Keiko is a likable character, but I really wanted her to be even more passionate and feisty, plus some of the events are narrated as happened in the past and years are summed up in a few sentences. I wanted to see first-hand what was happening. For example, at the London protest Keiko attends but tells us about after the event in a few lines. As a reader, I wished I had been there, in real time, seeing it through her eyes.
Also, I needed more detailed descriptions about the coves that the dolphins are herded to (e.g. manmade/natural, shallow/deep, size, surrounded by sandy beach or cliffs or fishing harbours etc) as well as the boats the fishermen are in (big commercial fishing boats or small rowing boats), the method of killing (e.g. do the fishermen lean over the boats and stab at random or do they pull the dolphins onto the boat individually or onto the shore or is it something else). This is not because I’m morbid, but I just couldn’t picture what was happening at all, and because I couldn’t visualise it, I didn’t experience the revulsion and sadness that Keiko was experiencing. Eventually I went online to look at pictures, and yes, it is shocking.
I enjoyed the story and I feel like I learnt from it, but the reason I’ve not given it a higher rating is because I wanted MORE! I often moan that some books are unnecessarily long, but this one was too short. In my opinion, there was definitely scope for more detail around some of the years/events that are summed up quickly - and I was keen to know about them. I got to the end and wanted to stay with the story for at least a few more hours and for me, it was all over too fast.
If you are interested in the Taiji dolphin hunt issue and are looking for a fictional take on it, and want a fast read, then you’ll enjoy Red Days.
I received a free copy of this book from the author to review.
My rating: 2.5/5
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