Nip The Buds, Shoot The Kids – Kenzaburo Oe

nip the buds shoot the kidsREAD FOR BOOKCLUB

Chosen by Rachel

A Japanese war novel where 15 boys are sent to a rural village full of hostile people and sickness

☁ “Nip The Buds, Shoot The Kids tells of a group of boys from a reform school who are evacuated to a remote mountain village during wartime. They are forced to cope with hostile villagers, fight a breakout of the plague and endure horrendous conditions while constantly wanting for sustenance.

“Comparable to William Golding’s The Lord of The Flies, the boys must establish a method of survival, with their childish demeanours clashing with the requirements for adult considerations and decision making. However it is the adult villagers who succumb to savagery more than the boys who are simply trying to survive. As such the juxtaposition of opposing emotions, abilities and maturity levels are a central driving force of the novel, exacerbated by the hostile environment the boys find themselves in. The play-off between horror and hope, and the difficulty the boys have in making grown up decisions adds to the angst.

“The title refers to the extents to which the villagers try to control the boys, nipping a bud of the living being that is the group to keep the rest under control. A book which highlights fear of the unknown and how humankind seeks to control what it can’t understand.”

Time doesn’t move at all, I thought in irritation. Like a domestics animal, time doesn’t move without human beings’ strict supervision. Like a horse or a sheep, time won’t move a step without grown ups’ orders. We are a steady state in the stagnation of time.

☁ “This book is gut-wrenchingly raw and darkly truthful, so much so it is almost too much to bear. But this is a book designed to test one’s nerve and, after all, such atrocities were all too common in WWII, so I appreciated it for its honesty. Plus, I want books to stir up the deepest emotions in me, good or bad and this certainly does that. You’d struggle to find a story more grim and beautifully written than Nip The Buds, Shoot The Kids. It was haunting and incredibly moving and I think it will stay with me forever.” – Rachel

☁ “This book is filled to the brim with misery which to me was made worse by the age of the group of boys. They were afflicted by various calamities – violence, rejection, isolation, plague, death etc and I have to say I felt totally aggrieved by the end at having suffered through such awful subject matter. The writing may be admirable but it was a grim book for me and I can’t say I would recommend it to anyone.” – Jo

Published 1958
Marion Boyars
189 pages

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