Sunday 23 January 2011

Review: Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto

Goodbye Tsugumi is my third read for the JLC 4 hosted by Belezza. Therefore I accomplished the challenge.

To the question to what her favorite season was, Banana Yoshimoto replied it was summer because she loves the sea. Both the sea and summer are the settings of this story. A story about two girls, who were brought up at the peninsula Izu, Japan. Maria lives in Tokyo now but spends the summer at her aunt and uncle's guest-house in the little village by the sea. It will be her last summer together with her cousins, Tsugumi and Yoko as the guest-house is going to close its gates due to a hotel build in the village.

We get to know Tsugumi, Maria's cousin, who is a girl with a strong character but a weak body. Tsugumi gets ill a lot. With every little exertion a fever puts her to bed. Tsugumi is said to die a young age. Nonetheless she behaves like a bully and makes her family feel uncomfortable with her gift of the gab and other vulgarities.

First I thought Tsugumi troubles the people in her reach to make a difference in their lives, that when she is gone people won't forget her. But when I got closer to the end I changed my mind. I think her motives lay in opening the eyes of the others; trying to make it easier for them.

"Each one of us continues to carry the heart of each self we've ever been, at every stage along the way, and a chaos of everything good and rotten. And we have to carry this weight all alone, through each day that we live. We try to be as nice as we can to the people we love, but we alone support the weight of ourselves."

Death again is a motive in this work, it's a constant thread to Tsugumi, which it seems she wants to shy away with her boldness. I think it is one of the author's messages in general: to not shy away from life even when facing death like strong Tsugumi.

Yoshimoto's style is "easy-to-read" and she tends to use common language. It is refreshing and youthful. Dialogues often follow a scheme not like one character telleing something and the other inquiring further but as if characters knew each other so well, they would not need to ask for more details to give an appropriate answer.

As I tend to get a lot out of Yoshimoto's works right now I lined up another book by her for a near future read already. It's going to be Lizard.


  1. I have read six or so of her works-this is my favorite of her books though most seem to prefer Kitchen-I enjoyed your post a lot

  2. I read Goodbye Tsugumi last year and I think I'm in the minority as I just haven't loved the Yoshimoto books that I've read. Not sure why exactly either. I enjoy parts of them but overall something just doesn't quite resonate with me. Hmmm. But very glad you found a new author that you enjoy! I'll have to try again with another book sometime.

  3. @ mel - I think I liked Goodbye Tsugumi a little better than Kitchen. I think this is based on Tsugumi being a novel and not a novel made of three short stories as Kitchen is.

    @ tanabata - my possible mother-in-law does not like Yoshimoto either. For me I only started on Japanese lit and am intrigued to find what other auhtor's might hold for me.