Nickyr's Reviews > Kitchen

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
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's review
Jun 02, 2012

really liked it

I have never experienced death before, fortunately, but this was a painful read, especially towards the end. Banana - who could forget a pen name like that?

I admire her for pouring her feelings out like that. There isn't really a plot to this, it's that simplistic. The main character is grief-stricken as one of her loved ones dies, and she meets someone who drags her slowly out of her depression. It's her description of the scenery and motifs that make this story complete. What struck me in the first part of the novel was that I felt like I knew the scenery off by heart. She had described it so many times in slightly different ways it was like getting used to a friend's house. That rarely happens when I read a book. I could visualize the potted plants beside the large window looking out onto the streets below full of lights and pedestrians with the moon shining above them. I could hear the tv always turned on low volume and feel the vastness of the large sofa that could lure anybody to sleep. I could also see the kitchen in the background of the unfurnished living room, and I could see the characters preparing their meals and drinking their tea there. I could see the whole scenery and it was a way of warming my heart after reading all about this death. I could spot lots of symbolism in there and delighted in contemplating them. She was in her early twenties when she wrote this, so I can see why almost all her characters are her age. However, their reactions to death makes them seem a lot older, and it surprised me to read that they were actually so young. It was written in a contemporary style with convincing dialogue, so it flowed smoothly for me. It was supposed to be set in japan, but to be honest, it could have been set anywhere, and that's the beauty of it. Granted, there were some elements of japanese places, like the shrines and the traditional tempura, ramen, and tofu, but there weren't any japanese slang words that I couldn't understand let's say. I guess they were eliminated by the translation, who knows.

I still don't quite understand why she included the novella Moonlight Shadows at the end of the book. I can only fathom that they are parallel worlds with the same themes, symbols, situations, and kinds of characters involved. However, I don't see how exactly they're connected. It seems like she just put it at the end because it was too short to be published on its own and it was very similar to the first story, Kitchen. Moonlight Shadows was also a very nice read, but it tired me because it was almost exactly the same as the other story but with different character names. It's like seeing another family from above going through the same situation when you expect something quite different. However, the sadness was definitely more extreme. I definitely found it hard to relate with, but it was quite moving. The scene at the end actually made me so sad. I would definitely have cried if I could visualize one of my parents being just out of reach as I said my last goodbye and had to move on.

I read this all in one sitting since it was so short, so my head was naturally left with a depressed feeling. This would actually get three and a half stars, because I doubt that I would remember the plots after a while, but because of the way she captured my attention with her emotions (and the title itself is pretty amazing), I give this four stars.


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