Sunday, 2 January 2011

Review: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

My first book for 2011. It is a short one though as my edition has only 183 pages. My motivation to read it was the JLC 4 hosted by Belezza.

It is a novel but reads like three short stories, two being connected.

First Mikage's grandmother dies. Now she is all alone in the world. Fortunately Yuichi, who cared about Mikage's grandmother too, asks her to stay with him and his mother in their apartment. Mikage accepts and finds herself a new family and a new home with a good kitchen. This is most important as kitchens are the most comfortable places for her.

In the second part Yuichi becomes an orphan, too. He is loosing himself and Mikage is one of a few to understand his misery. She understands that the only chance to save him and herself can be found in them being together.

The third part is a story called Moonlight Shadow. Again it is about the sudden loss of a beloved one and the way the bereaved have to deal with that loss. It was in fact Yoshimoto's first piece of writing and delivers already many themes which later are parts of Kitchen, like death, the exuberance of emotions and mysterious twists in the plot, like when Mikage decides to visit Yuichi in his hotel and intentionally knocks on the right window without really knowing which room belongs to him.

Yoshimoto's stories are sad ones. But she uses language and style to make it easier to endure. Her protagonists are young and lusting for life as well as anxious for it. The process of the stories do not always follow logic, like the panels in comic books. I think this is not so much important for the progress of the story but much more for the psychological background of the characters, which is intentionally not described any further.

In an after-word the author states that she has to say things and will continue to write novels until this need is satisfied. Great - I think to myself. I look forward to read Goodbye Tsugumi.


  1. The cover for this book is very nice. I tend to shy away from short stories - I enjoy character development which can be lacking with shorts.

    Sounds like this book was beautifully written.

  2. I haven't read this book before, but have seen it in the stores and considered it. I should have picked it up!

  3. It sounds interesting especially seeing as it's short stories in one. Connected short stories always make a more interesting read I reckon. Glad you enjoyed it :)

  4. This looks interesting...I have not read much Japanese literature, so I want to check this one out more. I see that you are reading Rebecca now, one of my all-time favorites :)

  5. This line from your post really resonates for me: "Yoshimoto's stories are sad ones. But she uses language and style to make it easier to endure. Her protagonists are young and lusting for life as well as anxious for it." I think you wrote a great review just with those few sentences! I loved this book, finding it sad, but fascinating. I cared about each character so much. Have you read other novels by Banana? They are all good in my opinion.

  6. @ Mari - I'm not a usual short story reader either but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

    @ Coffee - Definitely pick it up at some point.

    @ bookishardour - This sure was interesting.

    @ Book Girl - I have finished Rebecca yesterday and am going to review it soon.

    @ Belezza - Thank you. I will read Goodbuy Tsugumi now. Kitchen definitely got me interested in Yoshimoto's other works.

  7. I have been trying to find myself a copy of this title for a while with no luck - really want to read this. Great review.