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The Lake

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  8,277 ratings  ·  970 reviews
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 T
Hardcover, 188 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Melville House (first published December 1st 2005)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,277 ratings  ·  970 reviews

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Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: you'd never cry to them just to your soul
Recommended to Mariel by: big in Japan
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' ...more
Apr 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like poetic short stories
Recommended to Dolors by: Aitor
Shelves: read-in-2013, asian
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
Paquita Maria Sanchez
It should not take two weeks to read a book that's less than 200 pages long, but I literally kept falling asleep. It's kinda cute, kinda purdy, mostly boring, at times wise-ish, and sporadically gratingly twee, with a nice ghostly sheen of mystery culminating in a reveal that feels - after all the tea getting slowly sipped and paint getting softly brushed and steps being gently taken and empty space being contemplatively stared into* on our crawl to the finish line - like a Hollywood action sequ ...more
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 o
Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, japan
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 o ...more
Mar 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-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 lo
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: japanese short stories loss
Shelves: short-reads, japanese
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 sto ...more
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 timeless
Noura Khalid (theperksofbeingnoura)
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 w
Divine Anas
“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
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
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 i
Jaclyn Michelle
Feb 18, 2012 rated it did not like it

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-mo
Jason Pettus
Mar 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. 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 f
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
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 print ...more
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
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."
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- 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 ...more
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was strange, dark and beautiful. But mostly strange.
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have read comments that Yoshimoto's writing doesn't flow right, reads strange and some think it's due to something lost in translation. I am sure, having lived in Japan (still do actually) and understanding English is far different, that it does cheat us of something but certainly not to the point that the novels aren't great. I believe, even in Japanese, that it is strange writing, as it has an esoteric flavoring. There is always an element of the mystical and this is where her work stands ap ...more
Talia Colley
Wow, talk about dulls-ville! This is why I don't read contemporary literature. It felt like this was just reading a grocery list. Nothing exciting happened! Can you throw in a car chase or a ninja assassin -- something? I guess fans of contemporary lit might like this. It was well-written, just not very interesting.
Mark Staniforth
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Banana Yoshimoto is big in Japan. Her mostly modern fables of love and loss - of which The Lake is her twelfth - have acquired a cult following, and sold upwards of six million copies.
Those familiar with Yoshimoto's previous work will presumably be unsurprised by her latest offering. 'The Lake' is a slim, fragile story revolving around the relationship between two young Japanese students, Chihiro and Nakajima.
Chihiro has recently lost her mother: the first line of the novel reads: 'The first tim
Connie G
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia, japan
"I had a habit of standing at my window, looking out, and so did Nakajima, so we noticed each other, and before long we started exchanging nods." Chihiro tells the story about how she met Nakajima, a fragile, brilliant student doing research in genetics. Chihiro, a muralist, had recently moved to Tokyo and was mouning the death of her mother. Chirhiro's mother was an unmarried bar owner and her father's family had never accepted their daughter. Chihiro and Nakajima had a common bond of experienc ...more
Apr 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: japanese-books
I'm on a fence with this book. It's slow paced, a typical "slice of life". I got used to this genre after encountering it so often while watching Japanese movies or reading Japanese books. Still, at first "The Lake" seemed a bit boring. The main character isn't all that exciting and the first person narrative makes the reader get all the information on the plate instead of letting him find things on his own slowly. Nakajima, on the other hand, was a much more interesting character. The mystery s ...more
Kyle Muntz
Mar 06, 2015 rated it liked it
This isn't a bad book exactly, but it's definitely a mess. A lot of Yoshimoto's usual strengths show up, especially in the early pages, and for about 50 pages I really enjoyed the relationship, but eventually it starts to feel sort of sutured together, almost bipolar, sort of like Yoshimoto couldn't figure out what kind of novel she wanted to write and kept changing her mind every few sentences, while tossing in familiar elements just because (a dead mother, etc). Near the end it kept feeling th ...more
Banana Yoshimoto's work and beauty lies in the slice of life she presents. While she deals with characters as they muddle through the travails of their lives, there is not real closure to her stories and is left up to you. This story is no exception. What I didn't like about this particular novella was the uneven development. The beginning is slow because the our narrator is being developed and the timeline moves back and forth as well as from dream to reality. However, with relation to the othe ...more
Nov 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: japan, young-adult
The dust cover is plastered with praise from assorted august critics from the US (the New Yorker, the Washington Post etc) and Google tells me that Yoshimoto is a phenomenon in Japan and elsewhere. But (and I expect that this will get me into trouble with her YA fans!) I think she is the literary equivalent of a Smurf… a triumph of pop marketing.

To read my review please visit
Rebecca McNutt
This book was a really gripping mystery/romance, set in the booming Japanese city of Tokyo. I liked its creativity and its characters, but I think it could've elaborated a little more on the past of the main guy.
Apr 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2016
I have wanted to read a book by Banana Yoshimoto since visiting Japan more than 10 years ago, and although I loved the writing style of this book I just didn't get grabbed by the story line.
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: z3-2019-read-in
3.5 stars rounded up. I vacillate over whether to round this rating up or down.
I enjoy the author's portrayal of the delicate, unconventional relationship between Chihiro and Nakajima. I generally like how Banana Yoshimoto depicts interpersonal relationships of all kinds. But I am left baffled by the unexplained gap between Nakajima's past and present; one or two of his problems are never fully explained.
Nabilah Firdaus
“As I see it, fighting to bridge those gaps isn’t what really matters. The most important thing is to know them inside and out, as differences, and to understand why certain people are the way they are.”

The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto is a somberly beautiful tale about the healing power of love and friendship. It follows Chihiro’s hesitant relationship with an extremely introverted young man who has had a troubled childhood past. While the writing in this story is deceptively simple, its prose is d
Anna Baillie-Karas
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful love story written with great simplicity and truth. Chihiro & Nakajima Tare outsiders, & cautious with relationships. They’ve worked hard to establish a sense of self & Yoshimoto depicts their fragility together (their honesty & the matter-of-fact style make it more poignant). I loved Chihiro’s acceptance of Nakajima, his friends by the lake & her own unusual family set-up. Clean writing, poetic re making art. A gentle, engaging read. ...more
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500 Great Books B...: The Lake - Banana Yoshimoto - Dolors 3 29 Dec 19, 2015 03:32PM  
Her mother's death 2 36 Jul 30, 2013 09:27AM  

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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 gradua

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“But I have my life, I’m living it. It’s twisted, exhausting, uncertain, and full of guilt, but nonetheless, there’s something there.” 252 likes
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