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The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto (thoughts)

July 4, 2011

I know! Y’all have seen with way too many reviews of this novel lately! But I’ve read several of Yoshimoto’s books now and loved/really liked all of them, so when I saw it on Netgalley I couldn’t resist. I shall try to keep this brief. First of all, it isn’t a thriller or a ‘dark mystery’. Not that I was really expecting one, since I’m already acquainted with Yoshimoto’s style, but the marketing campaign had me a bit curious. Also, I didn’t love it as much as Kitchen or Hardboiled & Hard Luck (my two favourites of hers so far and where I’d recommend a newbie start). But I was still deeply satisfied, and I’m happy to have read it.

It has the same bones as all of the Yoshimoto stories I’ve experienced: there is a boy and a girl, both of whom are (more than) slightly ‘odd,’ a bit out of sync with general society. And they have an unusual relationship, which is portrayed with lots of introspection and delicate, quiet moments. I happen to adore this: Yoshimoto is brilliant at exposing our most tender points in a fundamentally kind way. I think we all have that weird part to ourselves, the part that feels like maybe we’re all alone, the part we tend to hide when we’re just going about our daily lives. And Yoshimoto reminds us that actually everyone’s internal life is a bit skewed, and that when two people happen to be skewed in matching ways, it’s magic. She shows us love that has a fairy-tale feel only in its complete acceptance of the other person, and she does it in a way that fills us, or at least me, with hope. The blend of concrete, little details with an overarching human story makes for magical storytelling, and Yoshimoto has that down. I remember every single one of her characters that I’ve encountered, and Chihiro and Nakajima are no exception. Reading this, I could relax: I knew I was in the hands of a wonderful writer who would leave me thoughtful and hopeful. And that’s exactly what happened.

If you love character-driven stories, or well-constructed novellas, or are curious about the feminine side of Japanese writing, you really should track down Yoshimoto. And if you buy The Lake, part of the profits are going to the Japanese Disaster Relief Fund. As for me, I’m off to put another of her backlisted titles on hold at the library.

Suggested Companion Reads

21 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2011 2:36 pm

    So many rave reviews about this one Eva, as soon as it comes to the UK shore I will surely check it out from the library! Kitchen and hardboiled & hardluck is my favourite too, besides that I have read asleep. Because it’s all short stories it is hard to pin down which stories belong to which books and at the end of it, it all becomes a blur! LOL.. but I’ll have to go back to my old reviews and have a read to recall them!

    I thought the similar bones of all Yoshimoto’s novels so far is about death. In different forms. Imminent death in Goodbye Tsugumi, death of a mother in The Kitchen, death of a friend, a sister. etc… :)

    • July 11, 2011 3:27 am

      That’s a great point JoV re: death! Thanks for sharing that insight. :)

  2. July 4, 2011 2:38 pm

    Oh I would like to recommend you a thriller I just finished reading, Sister by Rosamund Lupton. Central to the theme is characters with C fibrosis. I thought you may be interested. cheers.

    • July 11, 2011 3:27 am

      Thanks for the rec, though I should clarify I have fibromyalgia not c fibrosis, in case me calling it ‘fibro’ misled you! :)

  3. July 4, 2011 2:40 pm

    I really want to try Yoshimoto’s work. This sounds like a good one to start with.

  4. July 4, 2011 3:40 pm

    I never read Yoshimoto’s work, but I enjoy novels with strong characters, because they stay with us and influence us.
    Sometimes when authors use the same bones to their other books I found it annoying because all their other books eventually have a similar plot. Is that what happens with Yoshimoto?

    • July 11, 2011 3:28 am

      No, they all have different plots/situations/settings, just a similar ‘feel’ if that makes sense!

  5. July 4, 2011 5:52 pm

    Isn’t there a dead mom situation in this book? I have the ebook but I’m a little wary. If you get a chance could you please let me know how much of a plot point it is?

    • July 11, 2011 3:29 am

      Yes: the main character’s mom has died and she goes back to deal w the logistics for a bit at the beginning. After that, her missing her mom pops up periodically, but it doesn’t propel the plot.

  6. July 4, 2011 9:16 pm

    This sounds really great. Will have to check it out some day!

  7. July 4, 2011 10:34 pm

    WHY HAVE I NOT READ THIS YET!!?? I have it…I just have to read it now :p Thanks for another excellent review!!

  8. July 5, 2011 8:05 am

    I haven’t read anything by Yoshimoto… I really should start. I will check to see if this one is still on NetGalley and perhaps I’ll read it soon. :)

  9. July 5, 2011 10:03 am

    I haven’t read any of her stuff so far, but I think I’d really enjoy her style. :D

  10. July 5, 2011 10:16 am

    I haven’t read anything by Yoshimoto, but I did get a copy of this through Net Galley! So that will change soon!

  11. July 5, 2011 3:40 pm

    This might be the perfect read for my Japanese Literature Challenge.

  12. July 10, 2011 2:31 pm

    I have not read anything by Yoshimoto, and though I havent seen any reviews of this novel (until now) I have a feeling I will be as I have seen lots of excited posts about this books release. Sounds like I might be missing out on a great author.

  13. July 13, 2011 11:34 am

    I enjoyed Kitchen ( & Hardboiled was good too. I think I might have to check it out :)

  14. July 19, 2011 3:49 pm

    I just finished this too and it’s been a while since I read a novel by Yoshimoto. Although I felt this to be a comforting read (there’s something about her writing that makes me feel as though I’ve come home), I sort of wished it was meatier. But then she is rather an understated writer which is one of her charm points. Will be posting about her soonish.


  1. The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto « chasing bawa
  2. The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto « JoV's Book Pyramid

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