Author: Banana Yoshimoto
Pages: Paperback, 152 pages
Publisher: Grove Press
Release Date: 1988
Genre: Contemporary, Translated
Summary: When Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen was first published in Japan in 1988, “Banana-mania” seized the country. Kitchen won two of Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes, climbed its way to the top of the best-seller list, then remained there for over a year and sold millions of copies. With the appearance of the critically acclaimed Tugumi (1989) and NP (1991), the Japanese literary world realized that in Banana Yoshimoto it was confronted not with a passing fluke but with a full-fledged phenomenon: a young writer of great talent and great passion whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of twentieth-century Japanese literature. Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book that juxtaposes two tales about mothers, transsexuality, kitchens, love, tragedy, and the terms they all come to in the minds of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Told in a whimsical style that recalls the early Marguerite Duras, “Kitchen” and its companion story, “Moonlight Shadow,” are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a masterful storyteller. They are the work of a very special new writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul. (from Goodreads)
My a bit more insightful summary
Kitchen is constituted by 2 novellas, whose title are Kitchen and Moon Light Shadow.
In Kitchen, Mikage, a Japanese university student, loses her grandmother, the last person from her family and finds herself alone, until Yuichi Tanabe invites her to live with him and his mother.
In Moonlight Shadow Satsuki, a 20 years old student, grieves the death of her lover, Hitoshi.
My Thoughts (mild spoilers):
I found this book hard to get into, but I’m glad I stick with it.
The way the book starts was rather confusing to me: Mikage says that she loves kitchens, then that she is alone in the world, because her grandmother died, and then Yuichi invites her to live with him and his mother. This abrupt beginning and the way that the book is written ( this is a book where emotions are vital for the story, and Yoshimoto writes them in a unique way that I didn’t quite understand in the beginning ) were rather confusing to me, but after a few pages all my confusion disappeared and I started to really enjoy the story.
Both Mikage and Satsuki are interesting and well-developed characters and though they are grieving and felling very lonly Yoshimoto gives us tidbits about their lives before the grieving started that allow us to know them when they were happier.
I enjoyed all the themes with the book, they were all explored from different points of view and were important for me to know a bit more of the japanese culture, with which I was not familiar. I could say some of the themes that the book deals with but I don’t want to spoil the book for you.
The prose is powerful and, as soon as I started to get used to the way Yoshimoto writes, magnific. The pace is rather quick but the story isn’t rushed, if you know what I mean. What I loved most about Yoshimoto’s style is he it creates powerful images in my head and how descriptions are used in a unique way.
I actually prefered Moonlight Shadow to Kitchen because I found the prose more fluid, thee main character less confused and I just adored the presence of the Spiritual world.
Kitchen is an interesting book that and I think many will enjoy reading. Though the main theme, death, my seem a little depressing, I think Kitchen, is a book that in the end it’s not at all depressing, rather it’s a book about growing up and overcoming the difficulties of life.
“Truly happy memories always live on, shining. Over time, one by one, they come back to life.”
“People aren’t overcome by situations or outside forces. Defeat comes from within.”
“No matter what, I want to continue living with the awareness that I will die. Without that, I am not alive.”
“I realized that the world did not exist for my benefit. It followed that the ratio of pleasant and unpleasant things around me would not change. It wasn’t up to me. It was clear that the best thing to do was to adopt a sort of muddled cheerfulness.”
(This review isn’t very good, but I’m about to leave and I wanted to have this post scheduled)