Book Review: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
January 7, 2012 20 Comments
Several of my blog friends have read this book and I was curious to read it for myself. I’m not really into short stories, but this book, at 140 pages, only has 3 stories, of which one is the continuation of the previous one. So, while not novel-length, the stories are not really very short.
I found this book in a discount bookstore.
Kitchen: What it is about
The book contains 3 stories, of which the first two, Kitchen and Full Moon (Kitchen 2) are linked. The third story, Moonlight Shadow, is a completely separate story.
In Kitchen, Mikage is a young woman who needs a new home after her grandmother, with whom she lived, dies. Yuichi is a slightly younger man who helped her with the funeral and he offers her a place at his and his mother’s house. Mikage accepts and moves in with them.
She admires Yuichi’s mother, who works in a night club, and is very surprised when she finds out that Yuichi’s mother used to be Yuichi’s father, but has been living as a woman since Yuichi’s mother died. She’s an intriguing person and Mikage quickly feels at home.
I don’t want to say too much about what happens in the second story as it is a continuation of the first one, but takes place a few months or so later. This story concentrates on Mikage and Yuichi and how they support each other and develop further feelings for each other.
In the third story, a young woman called Satsuki has lost her lover Hitoshi. Together with Hitoshi’s brother Hiiragi, who lost his girlfriend at the same time (Hitoshi and the girlfriend were in a car accident together) she tries to find a way to deal with the loss. A stranger helps her in a supernatural way.
Kitchen: What I thought
The stories are about loss of a loved one and how people deal with it. There is quite a bit of eating going on, usually to lift people’s moods.
The writing style reminds me of Haruki Murakami’s books. Whether it’s a particular Japanese way of writing or whether it’s the way the books are translated, I’m not sure. I like it, but I never got drawn into the stories and I did not get attached to the main characters – the first two stories were long enough that you may have expected that to happen.
In both stories (Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow) there is a cross-dresser who plays a large role in the story. I have read Yoshimoto’s Goodbye, Tsugumi in which Tsugumi has a disease and has been expected to die since she was young, so the theme of death is there too, but no cross-dressers as far as I can remember.
I liked Kitchen better than Goodbye Tsugumi but not as much as I had hoped. I think I will still try her newest book, The Lake, when I can get hold of a copy.
I got this book: bought it at a book store
I read this in: Dutch, the original language is Japanese
Number of pages: 142
First published: 1993 (Dutch edition; Japanese edition 1988, Kitchin)
Genre: short stories