This novel about a woman whose big toe turns into a penis caused a media sensation when it was published in 1993. Winner of the Women's Literature Prize, it is an extremely intelligent work that takes the reader on a sensual roller-coaster ride: it manages to be thrilling, funny, enticingly erotic, grotesque, heartbreaking, and a modern-day fairy tale all at the same time.
Kazumi, an inexperienced and innocent young woman, discovers one morning that her big toe has turned into a penis. Her life as an ordinary girl is over, and a rigorous "apprenticeship" has begun: she will have to come to terms with her new male organ and reconsider what she had always passively accepted?her body, sexuality, and life. Kazumi flees from her homophobic fiancé after he tries to castrate her, and starts a relationship with a blind boy who accepts her oddly-placed appendage; after a time, she and her new lover join a troupe of performers composed of sexually deformed and emotionally twisted women and men.
Perhaps the most incredible thing about this work is that it not only plays havoc with gender paradigms in a way that guarantees the book will generate a storm of publicity, but also manages to make readers think and feel new things without being overly didactic or grotesquely pornographic. An earnest, sensitive emotional depth pervades this sensational novel, lending it a fairy tale-like warmth. Matsuura is able to make magic like this happen, and this is the author at her absolute best: The Apprenticeship of Big Toe P is first-rate as a work of literature, as entertainment, and as a love story.