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The Lake

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A major literary sensation is back with a quietly stunning tour de force.

While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous—a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.
It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though ... until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.
They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre religious cult. . . .
With its echoes of the infamous, real-life Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the Tokyo subway system), The Lake unfolds as the most powerful novel Banana Yoshimoto has written. And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the lake in the country- side, it’s also one of her most moving.

188 pages, Hardcover

First published December 1, 2005

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About the author

Banana Yoshimoto

189 books6,420 followers
Banana Yoshimoto (よしもと ばなな or 吉本 ばなな) is the pen name of Mahoko Yoshimoto (吉本 真秀子), a Japanese contemporary writer. She writes her name in hiragana. (See also 吉本芭娜娜 (Chinese).)

Along with having a famous father, poet Takaaki Yoshimoto, Banana's sister, Haruno Yoiko, is a well-known cartoonist in Japan. Growing up in a liberal family, she learned the value of independence from a young age.

She graduated from Nihon University's Art College, majoring in Literature. During that time, she took the pseudonym "Banana" after her love of banana flowers, a name she recognizes as both "cute" and "purposefully androgynous."

Despite her success, Yoshimoto remains a down-to-earth and obscure figure. Whenever she appears in public she eschews make-up and dresses simply. She keeps her personal life guarded, and reveals little about her certified Rolfing practitioner, Hiroyoshi Tahata and son (born in 2003). Instead, she talks about her writing. Each day she takes half an hour to write at her computer, and she says, "I tend to feel guilty because I write these stories almost for fun."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,179 reviews
Profile Image for Liong.
105 reviews52 followers
December 24, 2022
A mundane but interesting story to read.

Living in her pages when reading this book.

Feeling that I was enveloped in the environment that the author describes.

Banana Yoshimoto's writings can make you will easily be engaged with the story.
Profile Image for Mariel.
667 reviews1,041 followers
May 17, 2011
It has been years since a new Banana Yoshimoto has been in my hands- 2006! Yeah, so I became a fan in 2004 and read all of her translated works in a couple of months. Back to back like snug little bookends. I was so happy reading her books and living in those pages. I feel the most at ease with the world and myself in that world when I'm completely into books. The best are those that I'm so into that I forget to talk to anyone at all. If I can keep going I never have to look down and remember I'm afraid of heights kinda thing. (Kitchen and Goodbye, Tsgumi are my favorites. Lizard wasn't as good.) What makes Banana Yoshimoto so special?

I'm going to try and do this first based on the readers advisory appeal factors. (I said try! Yoda doesn't know what he's talking about. There is so a try.) [I'm pretty sucky at ra and it wouldn't have occured to me to say any of this stuff if I wasn't trying to think about what others like. I've never even asked a librarian for assistance! I did have one that looked like Stevie Nicks during her fat country phase in the 1980s, though. I wanted to ask her if she was Stevie Nicks.)

Pace: Relaxed pace
Tone: Atmospheric, bittersweet, darkly humorous, feel-good, haunting, melancholy, moving, nostalgic, offbeat, reflective, romantic, strong sense of place, thought provoking, upbeat.
Writing style: Conversational

One person's any of that (romantic or humorous) stuff might not be my stuff of that? It IS really personal... How do I get personal without getting touchy feely sounding? Yoshimoto can do it. She can be feel-good, and eyes open wide, or young again positions, sad (PERSONAL sad. "How do you feel?" "I'm sad." "I've been sad before too." like it doesn't have to be the same flavor sad to get it) and believable. I feel good reading her because the feelings are natural, fact of life stuff that I can believe because no one is pounding on the floor "My life is over!!!" histrionics. If she says it is going to be okay that is how it is going to be. Like life can really fucking suck sometimes and it doesn't mean it is always that way. Yoshimoto isn't going to pull a fast one on me and make shit happen just because. To me that's relaxed pace. You know how some books you get that good feeling from right at the start because of the way the writer tells you things? It reminds me of being a kid and finding the rare adult that didn't talk down to me.
My nostalgia and romantic are what the character Nakajima in The Lake means when he says that Chihiro doesn't inflict emotional violence on other people (not that she can help, anyway). Hell, I trust Banana Yoshimoto. That's my time, place, texture, thought provoking and emotional well-being. Is it anyone else's too?

I remember being impressed by one of Yoshimoto's blog entries in 2004 about John Frusciante (one of my musical heroes. I could go into more detail and get hysterical about it. Hero! That's understated. He writes a lot about regret and time passing). She wrote that she felt like he could be related to her. That is exactly it! I probably cried out loud. I think I loved Yoshimoto ten times more just for saying that.

Have you ever noticed that family members will have the same facial expressions? Do you ever catch yourself imitating the mannerisms of someone you've recently spent a lot of time with, even? (After seeing my brother I would roll my eyes towards the ceiling a lot. This is not a usual thing of mine.) The gestures that make a mother and daughter look more like mother than daughter than even sharing hair color and features? Eyes straight ahead to the people around you and looking to see if they are all right...

I feel like Banana Yoshimoto could be related to me sometimes. There was a part in Goodbye, Tsgumi that I loved so much. When the narrator sees the world as magic through the hot daze of her fever. I've known that feeling too. The yearning for the bright kitchen and spending time with loved ones like in Kitchen. The happiest times there could be.

If only I could read Japanese. Am I going to wish for this in every review I'm writing these days? Yes. Why wasn't I born with languages? It'd be like being able to play music (I cannot do that either). I'm good at studying facial expressions (that's not to say I understand them. I'm good at watching for them. It probably comes from being shy). I don't know the language that everyone has in their body language (it probably isn't the "international language of love" as said by the neighbor lady in the '80s film Better Off Dead). I'll try it on my own face to see what I'd mean. I'll try the gestures too. I know that gestures mean different things in different cultures (bowing in Japan or taking a bow on stage in the Western world. Wayne and Garth's we're not worthy. So many bows to know). So being related means to me picking up the same gestures, the inbetween spaces between bodies, the unsaid spaces. John Frusciante asked when recording the Red Hot Chili Peppers album (I'm actually not really an RHCP fan) "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" if anyone else could see the ghosts on the music. Maybe I'm hopeless as an RA more than ever now, but I couldn't help but connect that to this book. Ghosts like something big is happening in the emotional way that is too big to go away with the next setting sun. Yeah, that.

Chihiro sees the ghosts. Not literal ghosts like Caspar. She sees the ghosts of emotional spaces and projected inbetween lives of those who are haunted by their pasts to the point where they cannot cross it to join anyone else in the world that goes on every day.

Chihiro's mom has died. Her mother, a bar owner, was a fragile flower kept inside a flashier bottle of herself because she was afraid not to be what it seemed others wanted her to be. Her father stayed with them when he could without upsetting his disapproving family. They willingly existed inside another bottle within the world. Like someone who nurtures a crush because they don't want to ruin the dream in favor of reality of being together. The unreality was unnatural for a young girl to grow up in. The bar of mom's is twilight all is forgiven atmosphere. It may be the fantasy that the paid patrons required but... Sting's Message in a Bottle would say: Help! Your daughter is being poked by the disapproving village as a fish in a bowl. How does that make you feel? the therapist asks. I don't know! Hmm. Interesting. Scratching on a clipboard. Is any of that anything you can take to sleep with you at the end of the night? Learn to ignore yourself, put on what others need you to be... Force it. Happy face. (Clowns cry!) Chihiro gets out as soon as she can, determined never to be corked in again. Denying herself the same as her mama did, all the same. The location wasn't the point, after all. Relatives not flesh and blood but being related as made of your emotional flesh and blood. What happens to you if you are not tied to anyone?

The window is lovely when her neighbor across the street, Nakajima, is standing in it. Not too far. Not too close. The light to look for and hold on... More dreaming?

I wish I knew Japanese! Donald Richie said that the Japanese language can express what is unsaid. I want that so bad. If I cannot see the spaces between the bodies...

The translator, Michael Emmerich, is Yoshimoto's usual translator. I consider him to be like a seeing-eye dog for the blind (me). Sometimes Fido bumps me into stuff. I wish that the conversational style left more unsaid and let me see what it looked like between their bodies. Was it sad? Was it lonely, or cold, hopeful, consoling? But I guess it made sense for Chihiro who talks herself into too much to feel her way around that way. We all need seeing-eye dogs sometimes.

I did like Chihiro very much. She's a sympathetic person, for all that she was afraid to be needed or relied on. Nakajima's dark past was hard, as it should be. I would not have been able to believe in his future if it were not for how sympathetic Chihiro was in that honest way that sees the ghosts in the world even as it keeps turning. Yoshimoto is the best. I bet she pays attention all of the time and sees and hears the ghosts.

I should ask librarians for advice more often. From a libra (that's me) to a librarian. I found out about Yoshimoto after reading all of the Haruki Murakami's out at the time back to back. I'm currently reading almost exclusively Japanese authors. It must be the unexpressed. I think so much in a feeling around in the dark (need those seeing-eye dogs) kinda way that must be a yearning for that Japanese unexpressed between the lines meanings.
Profile Image for Dolors.
518 reviews2,143 followers
July 23, 2015
Life is merciless, it can bring random injustice upon us, sucking out our last breath of willpower, inflicting insurmountable damage. But sometimes it is also capricious and chooses to give hope to the hopeless, eyesight to the blind, atonement for the victims.
Chihiro and Nakajima cross paths on an unremarkable day when looking out of their respective windows they find their glances colliding with each other. They start engaging in silent, hesitant conversations, full of dubious smiles, nods and certain slants of heads, which shed a flimsy light on their darknesses; a smooth lake the only obstacle between their two wretched lives.
Haunted by a traumatic experience, Nakajima shies away from crowds and creates a safe haven buried in himself where no one can’t hurt him.
Chihiro, still grieving for the loss of her mother, opens her door to Nakajima and, without pressure, offers an unreserved hand, full of possibilities.
Odds stacked against them, Chihiro and Nakajima start dancing together not minding about the steps but following their instinctive rhythm, threading a new path without pretensions.

Reading The Lake produced waves of rippling sensations to me.
Like when you bury your feet in cool and silky sand.
Or when a fragile and timid sunbeam leaks through an overcasted sky, briefly warming your chilly face.
Or when you hear a flawless tuned up violin playing a soft melody.
But I expected this short tale to transport me to a place where time and space wouldn’t exist.
Like when you open your arms and feel eternal, surrounded by sky and sea.
Or when you witness the magic moment of seeing a shooting star splashing out golden color in the night made of grey and dark blue.
Or when you are unwittingly swept away, out of your senses, by the sheer beauty of a heartfelt interpretation of some piece of music. (Like Chopin’s Nocturne Op.9 nº1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Llni1D... ).

Pleasant but not moving.
It’s not that I didn’t like the story, it is just that it failed to touch me. I had the impression that Yoshimoto tried very hard to create a mystical, otherworldy atmosphere with poetic, even beautiful and delicate imagery. And she did. Her descriptions are deceptively simple yet charged with spiritualism. But even if I was willing to be spellbound, the magic didn’t work out for the characters. My heart wasn’t with them, no spark of recognition, their crispy dialogues seemed trivial, lacking any emotional intensity. Their supposed unconventionality wasn’t convincing and remained merely on the surface, giving no wings to my imagination. Not like Mishima’s The Sound of Waves or Baricco’s Silk.

No footprint, not even a watermark left after I closed the last page of this tale.
Just a fleeting already fading remembrance of a butterfly kiss.
Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 2 books3,224 followers
May 11, 2011
(review #9 for CCLaP!)


I didn't, luckily, so I was able to experience it as written, as a slow build, a soft, sad, slight mystery, with all the hidden things left hidden, or at least obscured, until they were meant to be revealed. I can't believe Melville House wasn't smart enough to realize that you can't give away the big twist in huge blue letters right there at the top of the blurb. What a massive disservice to Banana.

Ah, Banana. I've loved her for a long time, in a way that acts like a grounding foundation, so even when her books fall short for me, I am confident in her greatness, and I forgive. I've always been strongly drawn to her. I find her very accessible, very human, in a way that someone like, say, Murakami is decidedly not. He and Banana work with many of the same themes--like aching loneliness, and the This Side / The Other Side dichotomy, with things and people slipping softly between the two, and music and its power, and time and its betrayals, and the loss of self through occultish means, and fog and darkness and loss and despair. But with Murakami everything is so crisp and smooth and careful, it's on a higher plane, an untouchable one. Banana is more halting, less sure of herself; she lurches a little in her phrasing, makes slight plot missteps, falters and contradicts with her characters.

That may sound like I'm describing an amateur, but that's not what I mean. Even though she's not quite as polished--which could easily be because she doesn't command as good a translator, or as experienced an editor--her books have an incredibly strong feel to them that overcomes all these quibbles. They're all suffused with such melancholy, such aching sadness. They're so soft, so plangent, that it carries me above the mild awkwardnesses and inconsistencies, it makes me forget about critical reading, and just sucks me down into the experience of the read.

So I guess I should talk about this book, right? It's not so heavy on plot, and I've already told you about the back-cover spoiler, so I don't want to delve too deeply. It's a character-driven book, mostly about Chihiro, her parents (one of whom is dead), and Nakajima, the man she's falling for. Chihiro and Nakajima are both a little strange--the back cover says "quirky," which I think is overstating and twee-ing it--but it's nice to watch them together. He's in pre-med, and she's a painter. They both have complicated, unresolved issues with their parents and with their pasts. They cook together, she gets commissioned to paint a mural on the side of a school, he tries to decide whether to go to med school in Paris. There is a lot of conversation, and a lot of them being quiet together. Things get weirder, but I'm not telling you how.

So. It's a quiet book that hazes into somewhat chilling territory eventually. It's intensely sorrowful sometimes, and light and sweet at others. It's short, and even if it weren't, Banana's terse, mostly unfrilled style would fly you through it. There are some missteps, some inconsistencies, some lurchings, some awkwardness, but it's definitely worth reading, especially if you're already a Banana devotee. Although if you've never read her before, I might start with Asleep , or Goodbye Tsugumi .


OMG you guys, guess fucking what. I woke up this morning to this email:

We have a bunch of gallies for Banana Yoshimoto's new book The Lake. Want to read one?"

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy shit !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Profile Image for Justin.
453 reviews41 followers
February 15, 2012
It’s hard to summarize this novella-length story without giving too much away. In fact, I’d recommend against reading the marketing copy, since it spoils the one and only surprise in the book. It’s best described as a stilted and intensely awkward meet-cute, I guess. Introspective young woman notices odd neighbor, and almost despite herself, begins to reach out to him and draw him out of his shell. They begin a fragile romance as she gets closer to the truth of his ethereal weirdness, and both of them have to reconcile the baggage from their respective pasts if they have any chance of holding on to what begins to bloom between them.

That’s it, really. Lots of walking, lots of monologues, and lots of narrative exposition on the nature of people and relationships. This is very much a thinking person’s book (or, to put it less kindly, a navel-gazing session), and it fits within a defined subgenre of literary fiction that almost eschews plot in favor of evocative, poetic ruminations on the human condition, and how deep and interesting it is to be sad all the time. It definitely has the hallmark style of Japanese fiction, as well- the writing, while occasionally clumsy through the lens of a Western perspective, is consistently elegant, and often beautiful. There are some choice observations in the book that are eminently quotable.

I couldn’t get into it, though. I don’t know, maybe I’m forever ruined by a lifetime of comic books and genre fiction, but I don’t have much patience for this kind of aimless meandering in the stories I read. This isn’t a bad book by any definition of the word; it’s quite good, and short enough that none of its earnest heaviness is lost on the reader. But it’s also extremely slow, and has no character arcs to speak of. I was pleasantly diverted, but I can’t think of anything enthusiastic to say about it, other than that the prose itself was occasionally brilliant.

This is a good one if you’re in a self-reflective sort of mood, but it doesn’t do much in the way of escapism.
Profile Image for mona aghazade.
140 reviews42 followers
March 10, 2019
ام م خیلی خوب بود
جملات خیلی خوبی تو کتاب بود که من بعضی هاضو توییت کردم 😊
ادبیات اسیای شرق و بیان احساساتشون خیلی به ما نزدیکه و شاید برای اینه که بیشتر کتابای اسیای شرق و دوست دارم
اگه ۵ ستاره ندادم به خاطر اخر داستان بود

‏... فقط می خواستم حس کنم تو این شهر یه نفر از وجود من باخبره !
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,272 reviews698 followers
April 27, 2016
Most people are constantly perpetrating little acts of violence on others, even when they don't mean to.
The majority of the population of the world has an extremely ignorant conception of what they are entitled to expect from others. Those who don't understand why members of certain minority groups are so "political", others who think they envy those who can use the handicapped parking, those loud individuals who think needing trigger warnings is something to be ashamed about. It'd be less of an issue if the childhood indoctrination, the PTSD from rape, the neurodivergence and the wheelchair and the cross burning on the lawn weren't such fuel for fodder for tropes of popular fiction. Trauma is acceptable only if it has an expiration date, the assurance of a final conclusion, or makes the individual a superhero or a serial killer. No one, judging from common complaints about Beloved, wants to read about healing.
Recognizing how totally ignorant you are is the only honest way to deal with people who've been through something traumatic.
Quit fooling yourself. Empathy's a biological organ like anything else, and taking the usual society-sanctioned route of lying and confining and denying will make it weak and filled with poison. So you watch TV shows filled with the offspring of murdered parents and the survivors of various cults. Big whoop. Do you ever look around your world of normality and realize what a nightmare it has been for certain segments of the population for centuries on? Do you ever take for granted that the lives in which you'd kill yourself in are still going, still breathing, still weighing the adaptations of the past against the changes of the future, still persisting for all your incomprehension and disbelief? This isn't about your pity, or your charity, or whatever you call spending more than five minutes of thought on what others must survive until they don't. This is about recognition that those voices of "affirmative action" are not new, but are simply less likely in this day and age to be suffocated at birth. This is about acknowledging how trauma is not a single event, but under various circumstances may be continually inflicted on those who, due to birth or growth or unfortunate experience, do not fit. This is for those who you wish would just lay down and die because you wouldn't have to be so uncomfortable thinking about them.
People look so beautiful when their expressions show that they know they have a future.
Nothing happens if someone refrains from killing themselves. That's how life is. You don't get a prize for winning a lawsuit against a college campus for being structurally hostile to physically disabled students, or finding a method by which to fit your particular set of survival skills to capitalism, or evaluating day by day what needs to be done to make that length of rope all the less appealing. If you're lucky enough to have found a support group, or someone willing to ignore all the stereotypes of age and adulthood in order to hold your hand, great. More often than not, though, people will ignore you or give you shit for making such a fuss about requiring an individually/communally tailored breed of health that is not automatically allotted to those who cannot fend in the most able manner for themselves. You think there's anything to it other than luck and the technology that has granted my generation with the ever present label of "lazy"? You think you can throw words around like "trauma" and "surmounted" and "inspiration" around and then do nothing when your sensationalist entertainment starts bleeding into the personal physical plain of the words you use and the stereotypes you enforce and the murders you sanction? You and everyone else, apparently, so be satisfied that there's strength in going along with the crowd.
Thanks so much for seeing, the first time you met us, that even though we're like ghosts, the two of us, even though we're not supposed to exist, we are alive.
There are people who find themselves living in a world that only wants them in the movies and the mystery novels and the darker entries of Wikipedia. As a rare pop cultural reference from me, I found two of the characters to much resemble those from Akira, a comic turned cartoon dealing with psychics, science, and intergenerational trauma. The difference, of course, was this work didn't expect them to have super powers, or fight in action conspiracies, or complete anything other than the simple day to day tasks required of those who want to live in a house, eat food, and drink tea. So, yes. Nothing much happens in this. Those who have excitement inflicted upon them because of their bodies and minds don't have any interest in more of it.
Profile Image for Emilio Berra.
220 reviews169 followers
August 28, 2017
Dopo un promettente esordio coi primi due libri, la produzione letteraria di Banana Yoshimoto mi aveva alquanto deluso : alla quantità delle opere pubblicate non corrispondeva affatto una dignitosa qualità.
Ora il recente romanzo "Il lago" rappresenta invece una gradita sorpresa.
Questo libro s'inserisce nella ricca tradizione della Letteratura giapponese soprattutto per la leggerezza della scrittura e per la rappresentazione quasi zen della natura e del paesaggio come luogo essenzialmente da contemplare : "la superficie del lago era increspata da piccole onde" e, con la fioritura dei ciliegi intorno, sarebbe poi stato "coperto da un velo rosa".
Tanta lievità si riverbera anche sull'approccio esistenziale, come rispecchiamento dell'essenzialità della cultura nipponica : "era così bello da somigliare alla tristezza. Alla sensazione che si prova quando ci si rende conto che (...) il tempo che ci è concesso su questa terra non è poi così lungo" : la caducità della bellezza che porta a contemplare l'attimo come unico e non ripetibile. Approccio lontanissimo dalle bramosie del consumismo occidentale ; anzi, con animo di pacata e distesa armonia, come riflesso di una dimensione cosmica.

Protagonisti sono una ragazza trentenne, artista pittrice di murales, e un giovane ricercatore in medicina. Si tratta di individui che portano ferite interiori (in lui, profondissime), uniti da un fragile sentimento, tanto prezioso quanto non omologato agli stereotipi diffusi. Fra gli altri personaggi, i due amici della casa davanti al lago, che "custodivano con discrezione (...) la modestia e la grazia", in totale armonia con l'essenza del luogo, tanto da costituire una realtà di riferimento, semplice e altamente simbolica.

La nostra Autrice è molto brava nel cogliere l'indeterminatezza dei frammenti d'ignoto che qua e là emergono; a riannodare esili fili spezzati dell'esistenza; a captare il dettaglio che apre spiragli sulla complessità umana. Non lo è, però, altrettanto nel raccontare fatti, avvenimenti, azioni. Ma questi, lo sappiamo, formano solamente poco più che la superficie delle cose : non costituiscono tutta la realtà; non la parte più interessante.
August 28, 2021
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2 ½ stars

The Lake is narrated by the quintessential Banana Yoshimoto protagonist. While Yoshimoto's sparse yet dreamy makes for an easy reading experience this is definitely not one of her ‘strongest’ novels.
Chihiro, daughter of an 'unconventional' couple, moves to Tokyo in order to pursue a career graphic artist. She's still grieving her mother's death and spends most of her time on her own. One day, as she is staring out of her window, she sees a young man staring back from a window across the street. The two quickly form a bond and begin to spend their spare time together. Nakajima, who has also lost his mother, is somewhat unwilling to discuss his past with Chihiro and when their relationship becomes more of a romance it becomes clear to her that he must have experience some childhood trauma.
This short novel is definitely not plot-oriented as the narrative mainly consists in Chihiro either navel-gazing or pronouncing two-bit aphorisms.
While Yoshimoto does evoke the places and sensations Chihiro visits/experiences, The Lake lacked the atmosphere and feeling of Kitchen an Umi no Futa (which I believe has yet to be translated in English). And whereas I usually enjoy how nostalgic ambience of her work, The Lake just came across as dated. Chihiro seems almost to relish the idea that Nakajima may be deeply traumatised and we also have a side-character who is affected by a mysterious illness and bed bound yet she is also omniscient and able to speak through others...
Overall, this was definitely one of Yoshimoto's more banal stories as it lacked that vital zing which usually makes her books such zesty reads.
Profile Image for Phoenix2.
769 reviews96 followers
October 16, 2019
After reading "Kitchen" by Banana Yoshimoto, I started reading her short stories, but didn't find enything that could be compared to "Kitchen". However, "The Lake" is straight up that alley. Although, at first, I've found the main character childish and selfish, slowly her real character was revealed and she became more likable. Her boyfriend was a complicated character too and it was interesting to follow the main character's path to discover the reason's why he became who he was. Also, the story had a nice, reassuring message that people can heal other people and that none is perfect, on the contrary, we all have imperfections and we are broken one way or another. There were some odd moments in the story, like Chii and her brother, but the characters came in terms with it and somehow it didn't feel important to try to understand it any further.

So, overall, quick pace, lovely writing, realistic characters and a heartwarming, but tragic, story.
Profile Image for B.
120 reviews168 followers
July 1, 2016
Lôi 1 cuốn có màu xanh ra đọc để cổ vũ tuyển Ý nhân dịp sắp đi choảng nhau với mấy anh Đức :3

Cuốn này cứ tạo cái cảm giác thiếu thiếu hoặc chưa tới. Tới đâu, thiếu cái gì thì mình chịu. Rốt cuộc đó cũng đơn thuần là vấn đề cảm giác mà :3

Nó giống như kiểu 1 người mong muốn được trải nghiệm việc bị tiêu chảy, xem Tào Tháo đuổi thì ghê rợn ra sao nhưng vẫn ăn uống điều độ, sạch sẽ chứ không như mấy bác lãnh đạo bụng to, chưa đâu vào đâu đã lôi nhau đi ăn hải sản để như kiểu trấn an đại chúng ấy mà. Giờ thì hóa ra có khi thành ngu người .-.

Cuốn này có 1 điểm cộng là nhiều câu quote hay hay, tạo điều kiện cho việc copy lên fb thành những status sâu đíp. Giới trẻ giờ hay thế mà, mình giới già rồi nên thôi :3

"Đôi lúc tôi vẫn nghĩ mình nhìn kỹ được mọi tấm lòng sau từng ấy vấp ngã. Vậy mà họ vẫn làm tôi ngạc nhiên hết lần này tới lần khác. Đến nỗi sau này tôi luôn sợ hãi những tấm lòng đó, sợ những đám đông, những chót lưỡi đầu môi, sợ cả những ân cần vì luôn ám ảnh đó là 1 sự dối trá. Thành ra cô độc, thành ra đau thương, thành ra từ lúc đó tôi không bao giờ ăn lòng lợn luộc không rõ xuất xứ, ăn lưỡi lợn luộc và hút cần cùng 1 lúc nữa."

À câu này không phải của cô Chuối đâu nhưng ý mình là có post status thì mình thích post mấy cái nhảm nhảm như này :|

[Đọc lại - 1/7/2016]
Profile Image for Repellent Boy.
478 reviews494 followers
June 12, 2018
La historia de El lago nos presenta a dos personajes, Chihiro y Nakajima. Ambos jóvenes adultos rotos por la muerte de sus respectivas madres. Conforme pasan las páginas iremos descubriendo que hay mucho más que un simple duelo.

Creo que lo mejor del libro sin duda es la exaltación que se hace de la figura de la madre, de lo que representa una madre para cada persona. Los personajes se rompen en pedazos con la ausencia de éstas. Pedazos que jamás se pegan por completo, tras una pérdida así. Aún así, una se cruza en el camino del otro para salvarlo. Y de esa manera salvarse también ella. Los pedazos puede que nunca terminen de pegarse por completo, pero si lo suficiente.

En definitiva, me ha gustado mucho. Me hizo tener en mente todo el tiempo a mi madre y comprender, más aún, lo bonito que es cada día con ella, por anodino o rutinario que parezca. Y eso, ya es mucho.

Recomiendo encarecidamente al que lea la edición castellana y conozca algo de la historia japonesa más actual, que no lea la sinopsis, pues te estropea parte de la sorpresa final.

Quinto libro que leo de Banana Yoshimoto, y esta mujer cada vez me gusta más. Se me van acabando. Lloro:(.
Profile Image for Mahsa.
304 reviews336 followers
June 19, 2016
من شنیدن و خوندن افکار آدم‌ها رو دوست دارم؛ دوست دارم بدونم‌ توی سرشون چی می‌گذره... و چیزی که خوندن این‌ کتاب رو لذت‌بخش میکرد خوندن افکار "چی‌هیرو" بود؛ که تونستم در لحظه لحظه ی داستان زندگی کنم و احساسات‌ش رو به قشنگی لمس کنم.

Sometimes I even wondered if what I was feeling was happiness.

وقتی خبر ترجمه و انتشار کتابی به اسم «دریاچه» رو‌ خوندم و چشمم به اسم نویسنده‌ش افتاد، این ژاپنی بودن‌‌ش بود که تشویقم کرد برم سراغش و بخونمش. و چقدر خوب که خوندمش.

داستانِ دریاچه
دریاچه روایت زیبایی داره با دو شخصیت فعال در داستان؛ تقریبا نیمی از کتاب درگیر دختری به اسم "چی‌هیرو" میشه که به تازگی مادرش رو از دست داده و حالا میخواد به تنهایی ادامه دادن رو یاد بگیره. در نیمه ی دوم پسری به اسم "ناکاجیما" با معمای خاص خودش وارد داستان میشه، و باید بگم اونقدر آروم و زیبا وارد میشه که همه‌چیز عادی به‌نظر میاد. که با خودتون نخواهید گفت این شخصیت دیگه از کجا پیداش شد؟ و‌ تا اون حد آروم به یه شناخت ازش میرسید که درست مثل "چی‌هیرو" تا پایان مشتاق خواهید بود، مشتاق به جلو رفتن و حل کردن معمای شناخت ناکاجیما.

تِم دریاچه
دریاچه کتابی با یه معمای بدون جوابه. معمای وارد شدن به ذهن "ناکاجیما"، معمای شناخت ترس‌هاش و رسیدن به یه علت برای ویرانه‌ ی غیرقابل انکارِ نگاهش. اما اینطور نیست که تمام قطعه‌های پازل این معما در آخر نشون داده بشه، تکه‌ها کم‌کم پیدا میشن و با کنار هم گذاشتن‌شون، هم‌گام با "چی‌هیرو" به جواب خواهید رسید. و در این بین و در حین پیدا کردن تکه‌های پازل غرق اتفاقات دیگه خواهید شد؛ و هرچقدر که اون اتفاقات ساده و پیش پا افتاده به‌نظر بیان، فوق‌العاده قوی روایت میشن و شما رو به داستان متصل می‌کنن. دلیلش اینه که حرفای قشنگی این بین هست، حرف‌ها و حقیقت‌هایی که با خوندن‌شون حس می‌کردم قلبم داره اون‌ها رو می‌خونه.
دریاچه رو یه کتاب با عمقی از غم حس کردم، یه کتاب که غم تمامِ صفحاتش رو تاریک کرده، اما خطوط کتاب در چند لایه بالاتر از سیاهیِ غم نوشته شدن. که درسته اون رنگ سیاه همچنان هست، اما شخصیت‌ها ازش عبور کردن و غرقش نیستن. ولی با این‌حال، اینطور نبود که فراموشش کرده باشن... هرچقدر هم ازش دور میشدن، هرتعداد پله که از دردشون فاصله می‌گرفتن، سیاهی غم با وسعت بی‌اندازه‌ش در عمق حضور داشت و آزارشون میداد.
اما حقیقت اینه که گاهی بالارفتن از این پله‌ها و دور شدن از یه درد وسیع بدون یه نیروی خارجی امکان نداره؛ بدونِ دستی که دستمون رو بگیره، و قلبی که قلب‌مون رو وادار به صحبت کنه... و در آخر، همین قلب و دست، گاهی میتونن وسیع‌ترین نقاشی غم رو کمرنگ کنن و امید رو زنده...

That was unlikely, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with being a little hopeful. Who says you can’t warm your frozen limbs in the faint heat of a flicker of hope?
Profile Image for Lily.
289 reviews47 followers
November 16, 2015
This book has the peculiar distinction of being the last book that I finished before getting my heart broken with a sledgehammer. As such, anything I say about The Lake now will be hopelessly and unfairly distorted. Luckily, I took notes while I was reading:

The story is narrated by Chihiro, who is more concerned with external events than with the machinations of her own mind. Through what she does and doesn't tell us, her inner paradoxes are revealed. She places the highest value on the timelessness of her art, but says that she doesn't paint for the future. She acknowledges her ignorance about trauma as energetically as she clings to it. Her tone is casual, self-protective, and carefree in a way that requires a great deal of thought. Just because people are playing doesn't mean their hearts aren't in it.

Nakajima operates from a compartment deep within himself, a shelter from society and memory. He "meets" Chihiro as they gaze out from their respective apartment windows. They inch closer together as months pass, a process that we witness in snapshots of the everyday: taking naps, drinking coffee, painting nails. But something hangs in the background, silent. When you compare your anticipated recovery time to the remainder of your life expectancy and can't tell which is longer, you're in a position that nobody is looking to hear about. I don't want to be part of the loneliness that these not-normal people exude.

The titular body of water is a scene of Nakajima's childhood, but it's more than that. Chihiro likens their time together to the feeling of being underwater. The end of a person's life evokes the smell of water. The story is concerned with ends achievable through water: cleansing or drowning or both. Or freezing over: forming a shell for others to skitter across, featureless and unpredictable.

[Read Harder Challenge: a book that takes place in Asia]
Profile Image for Divine.
327 reviews169 followers
May 12, 2020
“But I have my life, I’m living it. It’s twisted, exhausting, uncertain, and full of guilt, but nonetheless, there’s something there.”
This was such a soulful read and I was allured by the candor and beauty of Yoshimoto's writing. This book speaks of the awkward yet natural healing of personal traumas to large-scale ones. I was particularly drawn on the characters' way of thinking and how despite their peculiarities, I felt oddly comforted with their bluntness. This book reminds us of the brevity of our lives and that the balance between our good and terrible experiences will always be skewed, and that's okay.

I have only started reading Banana Yoshimoto's works and now I feel more and more attached to her writing. It's just that her books move me in ways I never had experienced from reading before. I don't know if I could accurately call her books to reflect some kind of optimistic nihilism but it kinda does. I particularly like this more than Kitchen, her more prominent work, and I'm so excited to find new gems written by her.
Profile Image for Carol Rodríguez.
369 reviews25 followers
September 19, 2019
Segundo libro que leo de Banana Yoshimoto. Aquí narra la historia de dos personas, Chihiro y Nakajima, que intentan sobrellevar el fallecimiento de sus respectivas madres. Se conocen por casualidad y este punto en común que les une va articulando su relación mientras vamos conociendo cosas sobre el pasado de ambos, más con cuentagotas en el caso de Nakajima, porque es el personaje más enigmático de la novela.

Me ha gustado cómo ambos reaccionan, cada uno por su circunstancia personal, a la pérdida de sus madres. Cómo Nakajima se lo toma mal, a veces la odia, a veces la ama; mientras que Chihiro empieza a rememorar momentos de cuando era pequeña, de su padre, de la relación que tuvieron sus progenitores (que nunca se casaron)... Es un libro que repite varias veces aquello de que hay que disfrutar de nuestro tiempo con las personas que queremos, porque tal vez no siempre estén ahí.

Me pareció que estaba escrito con mucha elegancia, pero hay algo en las novelas de esta escritora que siempre consigue ponerme muy triste (ya me pasó con "Kitchen"), por eso, aunque el libro es muy corto, he tardado en leerlo casi una semana. He tenido deseo de querer acabarlo pero sin sentir la llamada de leer a todas horas; y no es que sea un libro hostil, es que es muy triste, muy melancólico y, aunque tiene momentos bonitos, también hay ocasiones en las que se me estancaba un poco por puro ritmo. Con los personajes me ha pasado igual, a ratos me gustaban y a ratos me parecían dos insoportables.

En fin, me ha gustado y me ha hecho reflexionar, pero no me ha parecido redondísimo.
Profile Image for Sharon.
248 reviews101 followers
February 19, 2018
I’ve long had an interest in all things Japan. Banana Yoshimoto has a good rep; after Kitchen was translated in 1993, we Americans experienced a brief period of Bananamania here, apparently.

I’ll definitely look for Kitchen at the library; this particular book was such a quick read (just shy of 200 pages), it never really picked up steam. However, I’d give Yoshimoto another shot. The writing is super accessible, perhaps deceptively simple. Some of the imagery was really well done: a woman falls in love with a man across the street who stares out of his window as she stares out of hers. Other areas seemed overly sentimental, with humor falling flat (this may be translation issues, or unfamiliarity with Yoshimoto’s style).
Profile Image for Hendrik.
395 reviews68 followers
August 9, 2018
Möglicherweise liegt es an kulturellen Unterschieden, weshalb ich mit der Geschichte nicht wirklich warm geworden bin. Dazu mutete auch die Sprache der beiden Hauptfiguren ziemlich kindlich naiv an. Irgendwie unpassend für ihr Alter. Erst dachte ich die Übersetzung wäre Schuld daran, aber GR-Freund Martin (siehe Review) versichert, sie sei nah am japanischen Original. Kurz gesagt, das war einfach kein Buch für mich.
Profile Image for JimZ.
975 reviews427 followers
February 11, 2020
This book was a quick read. With some books, I like to do it in one sitting because I can’t help myself…the book has captivated me and I want to find out how it ends. And then there was this book…the type that I have already put in enough effort and time so that not finishing it is non-option (in my regimented head), and I only want to finish it just to get it over with. I read “Kitchen” by Banana Yoshimoto within the last year and did not like that book either. Although it went through 60 printings in Japan and I guess is available in multiple languages.

The two protagonists are a young woman (Chihiro) and man (Nakajima) who gaze across at each from one apartment building to another apartment building across the street and eventually end up meeting and he moves in with her. Perhaps it is the style of writing that I cannot appreciate…I don’t know. She seemed to intersperse meaningful prose with non-meaningful prose. It got to the point where I read a sentence and said to myself “who gives a sh+t?!!!” Here is the sentence and it has no bearing on anything whatsoever in the plot…nada, nothing: “He carefully picked the small clams out of his miso soup, one at a time, and popped them into his mouth.” I realize in a novel oftentimes mundane things are written down but when 75% of the novel is meandering and getting nowhere this sort of stuff goes beyond the pale for me.

Now that I got that off my chest here are some additional tidbits:
I don’t know who wrote the inner back cover of the dust jacket but the person in describing the author is living in a fantasy world: “…Yoshimoto has gone on to be one of the biggest-selling and most distinguished writers in Japanese history…..”

Here is a review from The New Yorker’s Briefly Noted section (June 6, 2011 issue):
The narrator of Yoshimotos’s ruminative novel has abandoned her provincial hone town, where she was shunned as the illegitimate child of a businessman, and moved to Tokyo. Where she can be “just like everyone else”. After her mother dies, she falls into a weightless relationship (“What I felt for him wasn’t exactly love, it was closer to a sense of surprise, even shock”) with a fragile young man who has a secret past. Little happens – she lands a job painting a mural – they fumble at sex – until they visit old friends of his whom he hasn’t seen in a decade: a bedridden soothsayer in a lakeside shack who ventriloquizes “information” through her brother. The pace is slow, almost desultory; only near the end does a revelation come that gives belated import to everything that came before.

This book has also been reviewed in:
• Biblibio
• Bibliofile by the Sea
• Library Journal
• The Harvard Crimson
• KGB Bar Lit Magazine
• Kirkus Reviews
• Knowledge Lost
• literary license
• Literary Lotus
• the little reader
• PopMatters
• Publishing Perspectives
• Publishers Weekly
• The Reader's Book Blog
• San Francisco Chronicle
• Three Percent
Profile Image for Miglė.
Author 12 books353 followers
May 16, 2021
Knygos prielaida, kuri paaiškėja gale - gal ir nebloga, bet seniai nebuvau skaičiusi tokios blankios knygos. Tie puslapiai tiesiog eina ir eina, herojė svarsto, kalbasi su vaikinu, tapo kažkokią sieną ir niekas nieko įdomaus nepasako.
Tačiau kartais pagalvodavau, ką reikėtų daryti, jeigu nuoširdžiai pamilčiau ką nors kitą, o Nakadžima tik trukdytų. Nebuvau tikra, kaip elgčiausi tokioje situacijoje. Jis man buvo labai svarbus, tas tiesa, bet abejojau, ar tai buvo galima vadinti meile.
Šiuo metu man su juo gera, todėl pernelyg rimtai apie ateities sunkumus negalvoju. Tačiau jeigu pradėtume draugauti, būtų kitas reikalas.
Ir vis dėlto kas atsitiktų, jeigu ką nors pamilusi nutraukčiau santykius su Nakadžima?

AAAAA kaip nuobodu!!! Jei draugė šitą patį kalbėtų prie alaus bokalo, išklausyčiau, nes man rūpi draugė, bet anei kiek nerūpėjo nei šitos knygos pasakotoja, nei tas jos bernas, nei čia reiškiamos mintys.
Profile Image for fenrir.
265 reviews64 followers
February 8, 2016
La domanda fondamentale di questo libro è: ma che diavolo è una rete per mochi?!
Per chi non lo sapesse il mochi (餅) è un dolcetto molto comune in Giappone, fatto di riso glutinoso, tritato e pestato ad ottenere una pasta ed arrotondato in modo da formare una specie di palla. OK fin qui ci siamo, ho dovuto però controllare come si cucinasse perché non ne avevo idea e in nessuna delle ricette ho trovato una "rete" per mochi. Nakajima dorme con una rete per mochi sotto l'ascella, quindi sarà qualcosa di piccolo, ma lei ne è sconvolta come se stesse dormendo con una pentola sotto l'ascella (ed in effetti serve per cucinare visto che precisa che è bruciacchiata).
Chihiro ne è così sconvolta che non sa se può più stare con lui dopo averlo visto con una rete per mochi sotto l'ascella, cioè il tipo ha fatto cose molto più strane (tipo parlarti di come ci si estranea dal corpo con faccia seria e da sobrio, o portarti da due che si credono fantasmi e ti preoccupi della rete per mochi?!) tanto che: "ero sicura di amarlo abbastanza da poter dire che sono cose che succedono? (ma si, una rete per mochi infondo finisce per sbaglio sotto l'ascella). Non lo sapevo. In tutta onestà la risposta sarebbe stata: possibile ma non lo amo ancora a quel punto". Lo sai o non lo sai?! "possibile" "non lo sapevo" e poi "no" insomma fai pace col cervello? due secondi prima dicevi di amarlo alla follia!
Chihiro che "ommiddio cosa significherà mai quella rete? è così inquietantemente inquietante, di un inquietante davvero inquietante!" e Nakajima: "è solo un ricordo" ed allora lei "oooh allora è tutto assolutamente normale, dopo che mi hai detto questo davvero non è più neanche un po' una cosa strana". Continuo a pensare che la stramba della coppia sia lei, non lui!
Almeno gli fa una domanda furba, se vuoi un ricordo di tua madre con te perché cavolo hai scelto proprio una rete per cucinare?! la spiegazione di lui è folle quanto le reazioni base di Chihiro (Dio li fa, poi li accoppia!) che posso riassumere così : "Non posso mica dormire con dei documenti! e mettermi dei gioielli non se ne parla, sarebbe imbarazzante e poco igienico un animale di peluches! e portare un orologio da donna proprio no! Insomma, vuoi mettere una rete per mochi? è molto più pratica, assolutamente non imbarazzante e di sicuro igienica!" insomma, non ci sta con la testa. Arriva ad avere un minimo dubbio con "è qualcosa di cui mi dovrei vergognare? non lo fanno tutti?" tranquillo,anche io dormo con lo scolapasta sotto il sedere perché mi da un senso di sicurezza, è assolutamente normale!.

Mi fa sempre ridere il rapporto dei giapponesi con il cibo, con Chihiro che invece di commentare quanto è buono il cibo che le ha cucinato Nakajima (tofu bollito, dubito proprio che si possa definire buono o almeno a me non piace per niente) preferisce fargli i complimenti per come è tagliato bene, perché sembra che abbia preso le misure con il righello per fare le fette. Beh si, queste sono decisamente cose importanti. Come mangiare per merenda patatine e cioccolata neanche fossero 12enni, dopo che ha passato mezzo libro a dire "sono adulta e faccio solo cose da adulta! wow mischiamo patate e cioccolata per merenda dai, yum!".

Il rapporto tra Chihiro e Nakajima non lo riesco a capire, a lei non importa niente del suo ragazzo e non si preoccupa nemmeno di nasconderlo.
Dice di voler sapere tutto su di lui ma di non volerlo forzare a parlare, ma è una cavolata enorme visto che le poche cose che potrebbe sapere su di Nakajima non le interessano affatto. Nakajima è infatti sconvolto quando scopre che lei sa qualcosa del suo lavoro, discorso che può essere riassunto più o meno così:
"wow allora sai cosa faccio, ti fa onore!"
"no, non ne so niente. l'ho visto su Super Quark!"
"...ma non te ne frega di cosa faccio nella vita?"
"no, tanto sono troppo idiota per arrivarci! me lo hai detto ma sono talmente stupida che credo che biologia ed agraria siano la stessa cosa, che per studiare i microorganismi giustamente bisogni fare agraria!".
E quando sfida Nakajima a dirle qualcosa sulla sua carriera lui le fa fare una figura di merda sapendo tutto su di lei al che Chihiro risponde "ah ma nemmeno io me le ricordavo quelle cose!" ...cervello di gallina.
Profile Image for Jaclyn Michelle.
74 reviews12 followers
November 30, 2012

It was this blurb on The Millions about Yoshimoto's The Lake being shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize that prompted me to pick it up:

"The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto: She’s big in Japan, inspiring a cult following and selling upwards of six million novels, but Banana Yoshimoto will always polarise opinion. Critics may be tempted to call her Murakami-lite, given her fondness for the same kind of broad subjects as her heavyweight compatriot – ultra-modern and slightly otherworldy paeans to urban restlessness. But that comparison probably doesn’t do Yoshimoto too much justice. Certainly, Murakami could learn from her brevity. The Lake revolves around the relationship between two fragile students, Chihiro and Nakajima. Nakajima bears the scars of a terrible past, and the plot – such as it is – concerns Chihiro’s attempts to figure him out (complete with a visit to a couple of Nakajima’s mysterious old friends who live in a run-down shack by the side of a conveniently misty lake). It has its moments, and her champions – of whom there are many – will doubtless shout her claims from the rooftops. But if this was the best book to come out of Asia this year then I’m – well – a Banana."

After reading The Lake, I'm planting myself firmly on Team "Murakami-lite." I'd even argue that although 1Q84 could have done with a bit of editing, Yoshimoto has far more to learn from Murakami in terms of character development and literary language. Yoshimoto's narrative is spare, almost arid. I had expected her style to be simple, but not barren. What drew me to the book was all the buzz I'd read about the story. The story was supposed to be so compelling, so mysterious...I just didn't find it so. I just don't get what all the fuss is about.

Back when I was a teacher, one of the teaching points we spent a lot of time on during the Writer's Workshop was the concept of "show not tell" when developing a character. Granted, I was teaching first and second grade, where "show not tell" was incredibly basic (read: instead of telling me you felt sad, show me what you said and did and looked like that would let your reader know that you felt sad). Yoshimoto could brush up a bit on her "show not tell" technique. The story is written in first person from the perspective of Chihiro, an artist who starts a relationship with a young man who lives across the street. Instead of letting the reader infer how Chihiro is feeling or evolving over the course of the story, nine times out of ten Yoshimoto has Chihiro just tell us in a super straightforward manner, which seems a bit elementary. Maybe it was an intentional stylistic decision, but for me, it felt too easy.

Rubric rating: 4. If this was the best book to come out of Asia this year then I'm--well--stunned.
Profile Image for Noura Khalid (theperksofbeingnoura).
479 reviews692 followers
June 5, 2020
I've been meaning to try and read out of my comfort zone for a while now. I've grown up on purely fantasy for as long as I can remember and it's something that I really want to change. Not to stop reading it but to add other genres to my list as well. That includes translated works.

I decided to pick this up without really knowing what it was about. This was also my first by Banana Yoshimoto. I've seen a few people talk about her work and how good it is. The book was really character driven. It was also very easy to read. I didn't really connect with the characters since their lives are so different from my own but it was just so interesting. I love seeing this from a different perspective and that definitely happened here. There was a lot of talk about healing and trauma and honestly at the end of the book I was content while also thinking to myself what did I read? Around 200 pages that I'm not truly sure what I read about but I also didn't regret picking it up. There was some mystery and an exploration of people's lives and how different they can be. There was also a look at how people become who they are with their different circumstances and how those shape who they grow up to be. I'm thinking of picking up Kitchen by the same author to see how I feel about more of her writing. Looking forward to reading her writing again.
Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 12 books1,262 followers
May 18, 2011
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

It's pure coincidence that Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto started having her first American successes in the same early-'90s years when I myself first quit photography and started writing (and even further coincidence that one of the people in the writing workshop I belonged to at the time had a fetish for Asian nerds, bringing not only Banana but the Pizzicato Five to our attention in the first place); but nonetheless, it's because of this that I will always associate her closely with contemporary literature in general, one of the first writers my own age whose work I really fell in love with, in a way that I had previously only experienced with already proven classics. And that's because there's a kind of delicate nature to Banana's work, yet without being either fluffy or pretentious, a difficult balancing act to pull off, a lightness and minimalism that I find engaging rather than off-putting, and a sort of only slight surrealism to her style that most Western authors don't know how to even attempt; although I'm not sure if this is Banana in particular who's to thank for this, or if it's a more general sign of all contemporary Japanese literature these days (or perhaps even a side-effect of translating Japanese literature into English), in that it's for all these same reasons that I also love Haruki Murakami as well, the only other Japanese author I read on a regular basis.

In any case, I've been an avid follower of Banana throughout her English-language career; and now we have her latest, the predictably short, spooky and punchy The Lake, which both my colleague Oriana Leckert and I received advanced copies of via the generous publicity staff at the suddenly hot Melville House, creators of that new indie-lit award that's been all over the blogosphere lately as well. And indeed, as Oriana mentioned in her own review here last week, before anything else it's crucial to warn you to not read even a single word of the back cover if you can help it, in that the publisher has revealed there pretty much the biggest mystery of the entire story; and while it's easy to see why the money people behind this book would decide to do such a thing (it's a real "ripped from the headlines" subject which will draw people in simply from its nature), it's a shame that Melville House felt the need to reveal such a major spoiler just in the quest for a few new customers, which is why both Oriana and I feel the need to caution intelligent readers against ruining the surprise for themselves.

So, then, what can I actually say about the book? Well, like a lot of Banana's work, it's a quiet and charming character-based story, one in which we watch a damaged but earnest young woman float her way through creative-class Tokyo; and like a lot of her other work, it feels much of the time as if there is a bubble surrounding our main protagonist as she lives her isolated urban life, as if the only reality that even exists is the one forming a ten-foot diameter around our oversexed, public-muralist hero, as she slowly lets an even more damaged male neighbor into her life a little more and a little more. This is one of the main things to love about Banana's work in general, in fact, is the sense of real, concrete intimacy she manages to bring to her stories, the kind of unspoken bond that can exist between lovers that's so hard to get across in a medium like literature that relies so heavily on words for communication.

Also like much of Banana's other work, then, the plotline itself is a low-key one, important for making her bigger points but kind of incidental to the page-to-page story being told; our young lovers drink a lot of coffee, cook a lot of dinners, and eventually go on a trip to visit old friends of his at a rural lakeside cabin, which is where the title of this book is derived, and where it is that our narrator starts finally putting two and two together as to why her skittish new lover acts the way he does. And also like a lot of her other work, Banana uses this slight plot to comment in both grand and minute ways on various philosophical concepts, including grief and mourning, nature versus nurture in the developmental process, and whether it's possible to ever completely overcome the stains left on our souls from incidents in our youth.

Granted, such a thing is not going to be for everyone; and in fact, I think it fair for Banana's detractors to accuse her like they do of being in a way like a female Asian Chuck Palahniuk, in that one could argue that all of the twelve novels since her debut have basically been pale shades of her first, the exquisite Kitchen which in all truthfulness she has never really topped, and which requires a certain kind of personality to love in the first place. But I happen to actually have one of these personalities, which is why a new Banana novel is always such a delight for me, even if I do agree that they've delivered for the most part a series of slightly diminishing returns; and that's because Banana at mediocre is still better than a lot of other authors at their best, which combined with their more nebulous natures means that a stunningly original plot isn't really that necessary for her to work her magic. Some people are just never going to be able to accept a statement like that; but for those who can, this book comes strongly recommended, one which I suspect will be enjoyed even more by those not already familiar with her work.

Out of 10: 8.5
Profile Image for Marvin.
1,414 reviews5,316 followers
March 3, 2013
Warning: Do not read the Goodreads description. Too much info big-time! I will not indulge in any spoilers.

There's something about Banana Yoshimoto. Her prose is as light as a feather yet the emotions behind them are deep and profound. The casualness of her writing can be deceiving. That, her simplicity of style, and her immense popularity are probable reasons why an unnamed Nobel committee member, when asked if Yoshimoto had a chance at the Nobel prize for Literature, replied, "She's dreaming."

But I find her work quite moving. The Lake is an excellent example of this, maybe not as good as Kitchen, but close. The plot centers around a woman who is mourning the death of her mother but, at the same time, starting a friendship with a quiet and somewhat timid man. It is not a spoiler to say he has a secret but Banana makes the journey to the resolution a study in understatement and subtlety. The author's main recurring theme is quite apparent here; how young people are affected by the trauma in their life. It's a beautiful story that is haunting and perhaps a little more intense than most of her works. This or Kitchen would be perfect ways to introduce yourself to Banana-mania.

And Yes, Banana. Keep dreaming of that Nobel Prize. Someday you may surprise everyone.
Profile Image for Amy (literatiloves).
244 reviews51 followers
December 24, 2022
This was my first time reading Banana Yoshimoto and I really loved her writing style.

In The Lake, Chihiro, an artist, lives in Tokyo and sees a young man out her window. They start waving to each other and slowly develop a friendship. Chihiro is grieving the loss of her mom and she knows that Nakajima has been through trauma and as their relationship develops, he opens up to her about what that is.

The writing in The Lake is very ethereal - particularly in one portion, where Nakajima goes to visit two friends that live a very isolated lifestyle - it felt otherworldly, almost moving into magical realism.

I had seen in the synopsis that one of the plot points echos the Aum Shinrikyo cult which interested me and made me want to read it. If you like books with a cult element, this has that but it’s really about two people sharing their grief and trauma and clinging to each other to find their way through life and I thought it was really beautiful.
Profile Image for Antonio Spaghetti.
270 reviews21 followers
March 16, 2018
Uno de los libros más bonitos que he leído, doloroso y tierno. Cargado de una emotividad mágica y eso que es bien sencillito, pero tiene algo que lo hace único.
Profile Image for Giang đọc sách.
62 reviews52 followers
February 2, 2017
Những năm chưa tới 20 tuổi mình rất thích đọc Banana Yoshimoto. Có lẽ đã đọc hết các đầu sách xuất bản ở Việt Nam. Nhưng kì thật tới giờ không nhớ gì nhiều ngoài vài khung cảnh do mình tạo ra khi đọc Kitchen.
Nếu để viết vài dòng cảm nhận thì cảm nhận sâu sắc nhất của mình đó là từ ngữ không bao giờ đủ chính xác để miêu tả cảm xúc cả! Mà văn chương của cô Chuối thì khơi gợi trong mình nhiều cảm nhận hơn là một cái gì đó cụ thể có thể viết ra được.
Dù mình chưa từng trải qua cuộc sống như hai nhân vật chính, những nỗi đau hay bi kịch hay thế giới của họ, nhưng mình nghĩ mình hiểu.
Hồ nước tuy lặng yên như thế, lại chẳng yên lặng chút nào. Có một người bỗng nhiên nắm tay một người cùng ngắm nhìn thật lặng yên.

Giả thử là ngày xưa, hôm nào gặp phải chuyện không vui bên ngoài, được trở về nhà, sờ vào mèo là tôi sẽ lập tức vui vẻ trở lại. Giờ đây tôi cũng có được cảm giác ấy, tựa hồ Nakajima vừa mới trung hòa các độc tố đang cuộn lên trong tôi.

Đọc đoạn này xúc động lắm, có thể thay tên nhân vật chính thành anh Huy. Bởi vậy nên mình mới thấy có nhiều cảm xúc khi đọc cuốn sách tưởng như rời rạc, chấp chới này. Bởi vì mình cũng là một cá thể cô độc, cứ ngỡ mãi rằng đời mình sẽ cô độc mà lớn lên như thế, khi có chuyện chỉ biết im lặng trở về nhà, chôn chặt trong lòng (hoặc viết nhật ký), thế rồi có thể gặp được một người mà chỉ ở bên cạnh thôi, cũng đủ để dàn xếp để mọi sự yên ắng trở lại.

Quyển sách đầu tiên đọc xong trong năm 2017!
Đó không phải sự khác nhau giữa đàn ông và đàn bà, mà là sự khác nhau của chặng đường đời mỗi người trải qua

Tôi nghĩ, quan trọng nhất không phải là đấu tranh để xóa đi sự khác biệt, mà là thấu hiểu sự khác biệt và lý do tồn tại của những người khác

Con người ta dù không có ý định làm người lớn, nhưng khi bị xô đẩy và phải lựa chọn, tự nhiên người ta sẽ trưởng thành. Tôi cho rằng lựa chọn là quan trọng.
Profile Image for Fernanda.
324 reviews91 followers
December 17, 2014
Si hay algo de lo que me siento muy feliz, es de saber que hay una autora ahí afuera que me habla. Banana Yoshimoto no se destaca por sus grandes historias, ni libros interesantes, ella hace libros llenos de vida, serenidad, nostalgia, reflexión; no pasa nada, pero sientes.

El Lago es creo, el libro de Yoshimoto que más me ha hecho sentir. No sé si se trata de un episodio en mi vida, pero la yo de este momento se conmovió hasta las lágrimas del sentir de sus protagonistas. La narración siempre es muy simple, sin florituras, no hay nada excepcional en la escritura, lo que es especial, son las emociones que se transmiten, los paisajes y la empatía que genera para con los personajes. Una vez más el ambiente está lleno de nostalgia, de tristeza, pero siempre con optimismo. Las emociones negativas se anulan, si llegan a aflorar, se mitigan a través de la reflexión del personaje principal, que en esta ocasión es una mujer (de nuevo, como siempre hace Yoshimoto).

El Lago tiene como protagonista a Chihiro, una joven que se encuentra en una etapa confusa de su vida, su madre acaba de morir, tiene dudas sobre su carrera, no está lista para nada, el dolor de la muerte de su madre es grande y eso la mantiene en una clase de limbo; entonces conoce a Nakajima, un hombre extraño, desgarbado, como ausente, un espíritu que vive. Ambos se conocen lentamente, como debe ser, sin prisas, el tiempo justo, y entonces vemos como se desenvuelven el uno con el otro, cómo se complementan, qué los lleva a pensar que está bien que estén juntos. ¿Ven? Simple, no hay nada especial, pero si hay algo que logró este libro es hacerme reflexionar, me hizo pensar en mi, en lo que siento, en lo que pienso; el libro me habla, porque el personaje principal me llega, me dice que todo estará bien en un momento de mi vida donde lo necesito.

Ya se me saltaron las lágrimas, otra vez.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books332 followers
October 5, 2022
150112: this book is pretty much consistent with all the yoshimoto i have read, primarily because i enjoyed Kitchen so much. that book seemed like a minimalist, stripped down, carnivalesque novel rather similar to a particular american author John Irving- whose works always seemed too long, banana is concise. i wonder of course about fidelity of translation, i do not know if this should be considered ya, but considering it took only one reading versus murakami’s 1Q84 six, i think i like it more. i am not swayed by blurbs…

i do find it typical to most of japanese lit that there is often a hysterical- not comic but psychologically traumatized- dissonance between apparent action and emotional expression- but perhaps that highlights what readers want from this work: to ride through the turbulent, fantastic, unusual and emphatically emotive landscape of a sympathetic character not too unlike themselves. this is not a difficult book to find symbols hiding but in plain sight. if you want what seems to be a speciality of contemporary japanese lit- weird romances with allusive blurts of dialog, buried trauma, but not much plot- if you like yoshimoto, you will like this work...
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