The Windup Girl definitely takes a bit of getting into before the action starts to pick up and stories begin to unravel, but reading it is well worth the effort. There are two things that really struck me while reading this novel: How important the changing perspectives is to advance the plot and keep the reader engaged, and how raw the representation of prostitution and pimping is depicted.
Every chapter allows the reader to be exposed to a different character’s perspective. Of course it was a bit confusing at first to get used to being dropped into changing situations ever chapter, but it reminded me of the movie Crash. These characters were seemingly irrelevant to each other, leading their own lives and dealing with their separate problems. But gradually as the story unfolded, the reader could see how their lives overlapped and influenced each other. I thought this was interesting when it was first revealed how Anderson’s and Emiko’s lives had to do with each other. It was especially pleasant to be given little details here and there from one character that regarded another character; it was like filling in the empty spots of a jigsaw puzzle. Admittedly, it was still a bit difficult to keep up with the heavy plot lines at times especially because of the new terminology: Calorie men, white shirts, blister rust, genehacking. Surprisingly, understanding and visualizing most of the qualities of Emiko as a windup girl wasn’t that hard. The only thing I would point out is that a visual on-screen interpretation would be extremely helpful in understanding her mechanical ticks.
Emiko’s story line was by far the most interesting to me. Her life as an exotic performer/prostitute was shown in such a realistic and unapologetic manner that I had no choice but to respect the author for his bravery. I feel as though most artists would be cautious to portray the work and lives of prostitutes for what they are for fear of making the viewer uncomfortable and even guilty. Movies like Pretty Woman depict unrealistic portrayals of the dangerous night work of prostitutes. Its illustration, according to one Newsweek article, suggests to young children that prostitution is a viable career choice that may even bring enjoyment (Burleigh). This is certainly not a message that should be given to anybody. Prostitution is not a choice, it is sex slavery, which is clearly shown through Emiko’s experiences very early on in the novel. Her “performance” (which is quite clearly rape) on stage is humiliating and degrading on many levels. She endures the sexual assault and emotional trauma because she physically has no other choice as she was genetically engineered to please her companions and she economically has no other choice because she is in serious debt to her owner, Raleigh. As if her rape isn’t enough for the reader to cringe, Raleigh very clearly shuts down Emiko’s wishes to leave the establishment by essentially telling her how worthless and undesired she is outside of Japan. This treatment is incredibly harsh and even heartbreaking, but the rawness of the depiction is exactly what people need to see and be exposed to. Prostitution is in no way a pleasant experience and people should not be led to believe anything other than its abusive and traumatizing qualities. I applaud Bacigalupi’s talent and bravery in shining a light on the very serious topic, even if it’s not the main issue being depicted in the story.
Burleigh, Nina. “Sex Trafficking and the ‘Pretty Woman’ Fairy Tale.” Newsweek, 23 Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.