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Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (thoughts on rereading)

January 5, 2012


As I was staring at my library books, trying to decide on my first read of the new year, I happened to see that several of them were due on January 2nd. Too many to read in such a short time, but that did help me narrow the list, and in the end I thought I should go with a trusted favourite to start the new year off right. I was in a dreamy, thoughtful mood, so I couldn’t resist pulling Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto off the shelf. I read it for the first time, amusingly enough, at the very beginning of 2009! It launched my love of Yoshimoto, and since then I’ve also read Hardboiled & Hard Luck, Goodbye, Tsugumi, and The Lake. So I was eager to revisit this one, her debut, and see if it was still my favourite.

Well, it is! At first, I was a bit worried; the language style felt a bit more casual and slang-y than I remembered it. But soon it settled into a rhythm, and I was lost again in Yoshimoto’s haunting, elegiac world. While I still love the title novella, especially the final scene, I really cherished “Moonlight Shadows” this time around. It’s set in a Tokyo winter and centers around a young woman caught up in grief due to the sudden, tragic death of her boyfriend a few months earlier. Every morning, she jogs through the park because she can’t sleep and doesn’t want to think. But one morning, she meets a mysterious stranger on the bridge, one who seems a bit magical. It’s a ghost story, which is probably part of why I loved it, but the mix of nostalgia and hope, deep heartbreak with renewed faith, seemed just right for this time of year. We’ve just passed the darkest days of winter, in the Northern hemisphere at least, and while we might not see much evidence yet, the day is gaining a bit more with each sunrise and sunset. To sit curled up under a blanket, watching winter through my window, with a hot cup of tea and a beautiful book, is such a privilege. And yet, it’s also one that I only have because I’m too ill to work but have parents who support me. That knowledge doesn’t spoil my experience, or the scene, but it does change the flavour a bit. I suspect Yoshimoto would understand that and know how to put it into words, better than I can myself. All I know is that I’m tempted to make Kitchen a new year tradition, and in the mean time I’ll continue happily reading the rest of her novels. She manages to mix quirky characters and young narrative voices with emotional quandaries and gently-described scenes that go straight to my heart. And that is something to treasure.

Suggested Companion Reads

(P.S.: my hands are not amused, so I’m going on a typing fast until Sunday. I’m still reading blogs and e-mails and the comments I get here, but I won’t be replying for awhile. And I won’t be on Twitter. Thanks for understanding! -Eva)

(P.P.S.: I tried taking my own cover photo for this post, because I always admired it when Claire of Kiss a Cloud did so. I’m obviously not at her level, but let me know if you think I should just use stock publisher cover images instead!)

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. January 5, 2012 10:56 am

    Last I checked the library didn’t have anything by this author, but I will have to read her at some point. She has been on my list for ages!

  2. January 5, 2012 11:05 am

    I really loved this book and can see why it would be a wonderful way to start a new year!

  3. January 5, 2012 11:49 am

    Wow, this sounds like an excellent book! I’ve only read “Lake” by Banana Yoshimoto thus far, and I loved it completely. Excellent way to start off the new year!

  4. January 5, 2012 11:55 am

    I’m looking forward to reading Kitchen. The only Yoshimoto that I’ve read so far is Asleep, which I liked. I actually like it more now than I did after first reading it (some books have that effect on me!).

    Oh, you should keep using your own cover photos if you can! This is a good idea that I’d like to do at least some of the time. It’s more personal :)

  5. brolee permalink
    January 5, 2012 12:16 pm

    Must add something by Yoshimoto to my list as I’ve never read anything by her! Oh, and keep up the real photos – seeing pictures of books makes the nerd in me sort of giddy.

  6. January 5, 2012 12:18 pm

    I think that this was my first Banana Yoshimoto reads as well, but I don’t remember it at all. Thanks for jogging my memory.

  7. January 5, 2012 12:19 pm

    I’ve had her book on my list for a long time and your review makes me want to read it sooner rather than later. Seems I might have been missing something!

  8. January 5, 2012 1:01 pm

    I have not read any Yamamoto, but it sounds like I should add her to my (long) list. Keep taking those cover photos–practice makes perfect! At least I hope it does. I am a terrible photographer. :)

  9. January 5, 2012 1:09 pm

    I have The Lake by Yoshimoto, which I know wasn’t your favorite, but since it’s on hand, I think it will probably be the first book of hers that I read. I know people always rave about her books but I admit that her name always seems so silly to me (Banana, that is) that I always think twice before picking up her books… Such a superficial and bad reason to avoid an author, I know!

  10. January 5, 2012 2:08 pm

    I love the idea of doing your own cover photos! I say keep it up. :)

  11. January 5, 2012 2:21 pm

    Your own cover photos is a great idea! As is Kitchen as a new year book. Kitchen was also my first Yoshimoto novel. I read it so long ago that a reread might be in order, especially now that I’ve read your thoughts on the book. :)

  12. January 5, 2012 3:13 pm

    Boo. :( I’m sorry the Sjogrens is giving you so much grief, sweetie. Hope it gives you a break very soon! *hugs*

    And yeah, I really like your cover shot!

  13. January 5, 2012 3:16 pm

    I think the cover shot is lovely! Glad you found a read to give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, just when you needed it. Sorry your hands are bothering you but it is good you will be giving them a rest from the typing!

  14. January 5, 2012 6:16 pm

    Just reviewed ‘The Lake’, one I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would. I haven’t always been a big fan of Yoshimoto, largely because of her horrible, teenage-American-style dialogue, but ‘The Lake’ was a cut above most of the ones I’ve read . Another I’d recommend is ‘Amrita’ as that is a longer, meatier story than her usual light, fluffy fare (‘Kitchen’ is probably my next favourite).

    As for the photos, definitely take your own – I’ve been doing that for a while now, and it lends a touch of individuality to the posts :)

  15. January 5, 2012 7:34 pm

    I haven’t read her but it sounds like something I’d enjoy. I certainly loved THE TRANSLATOR. Great post! :)

  16. January 5, 2012 8:39 pm

    I’ve been thinking of re-reading this one, too, because I haven’t enjoyed some of her more recent translations as much; the idea of it being your new New Year’s read tickles me…and definitely makes me want to get serious about re-reading it myself, even if I have missed that perfect time for it. I’m glad to hear that it was a good experience despite your initial doubts! May the new reading year hold many other happy re-discoveries and fresh reads for you!

  17. January 5, 2012 8:56 pm

    I LOVE when people take their own pictures of books and I love this one :) So yes…take your own pics :) I don’t know why I still haven’t read any Yoshimoto…need to fix that!

  18. January 7, 2012 5:56 pm

    This was my first Yoshimoto read as well — definitely time for a reread, as you’ve stirred up all my recollections of it! I think this is still my favourite of all the books of hers i’ve read, but I do still have a few to try. The photo is nice, though on first glance I thought those were your fingertips and thought, wow, a mini-book! ;)

  19. January 9, 2012 3:39 pm

    I hope those are eggs featured in the photo. No need to confirm. :)
    If you want to take photos of your books, do it. I only do when I can’t find it but I do enjoy the process. Maybe I should try to be more creative with this, too. It could be one way to get more pics of Copley or my dear darling puppies onto the blog… *me pondering*

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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