Book Review: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Kitchen by Banana YoshimotoSeveral 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.

Rating: 4/5

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

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

19 Responses to Book Review: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

  1. Tes says:

    Oh that sounds like so much fun in one book🙂

  2. parrish says:

    I have this & The Lake and my aim is to read them this year, so will reference this again at some point.

  3. Kitchen is a favorite of mine. I love the dreamy quality of Yoshimoto’s writing. Glad you enjoyed this.

  4. Trisha says:

    I’m not a big fan of short stories either, so I’ve pretty much ignored this one.🙂 Still not sure I’m going to pick it up…

    • Leeswammes says:

      Trisha, these short stories were long enough for me to make it interesting to read. But yes, if the topics don’t interest you, then it’s still no good.

  5. Els says:

    It’s years ago since I read this book; your review stimulates me to reread it. I remember that I liked the atmosphere in the book in retrospect: yes, this book is quite similar to Murakami’s.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Els, it’s not a very big book, so it should be nice to re-read without taking too much time. Do you like Murakami too? I’m a bit of a fan.🙂

  6. mike draper says:

    This is nicely reviewed, Leeswammes. You introduced me to an author I wasn’t aware of.
    Mike Draper

  7. Tony says:

    I’d definitely recommend ‘The Lake’ and ‘Amrita’, both good examples of Yoshimoto’s work. I would imagine that Murakami is an influence on Yoshimoto, and I’ve spotted several parallels in their work before (although I much prefer Murakami!).

  8. Chinoiseries says:

    It’s been ages since I read this book. Your review makes me want to go and re-read it🙂 The Lake was alright, but not as good as her other books. I hope you’ll enjoy it though!

  9. JoV says:

    Reading Yoshimoto gives you a slow burning grief and elegiac feeling with a feminine touch, which is lacking in Murakami of course! The funny thing is I don’t quite remember the stories of Yoshimoto’s books because most of them tend to be the same but I remember each and everyone of Murakami’s. So it says a lot, but still on a cold, dark or rainy day I would curl up with a Yoshimoto’s book. Glad that you think the book is good!

    • Leeswammes says:

      That’s an interesting description, Jo! Indeed, there is definitely a feminine touch in Yoshimoto’s books. I haven’t read enough by her to say whether they are all a bit the same.

  10. Pingback: Book Review - Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

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