Melody
ISBN: 9780571171040
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Published: 1993
150 pgs
Translator: Megan Backus



Thanks to Iliana, I came to know about this book through her recommendations (coincidentally, she also has her review posted. You can find the link at the end of this post).

I had a hard time looking for this book. I dared not even hope I would get it at BookMooch, since there are a number of BookMoochers hoping to get this book too. But a trip to Perth, Australia proved to be more worthwhile as I found it (the only one left) during a visit to Borders.

Anyway, back to Kitchen. What should I say? I am in love with the book. A simple story yet it struck a chord in my heart. The title may give a hint about the story surrounding kitchens (and cooking), but there are something much more than that. It is a moving tale about dealing with losing one's loved ones, grief and then, the simplicity of love.

Mikage Sakurai lost her parents since she was young. Her grandmother is the only person who has brought her up after her grandfather passed away when she was in junior high. So when her grandmother died, she is at a loss. It then dawned on her that everyone around her was no longer around, and this makes her feel very lonely, besides having to bear all the grief herself. But she knew she could not exist like that, doing nothing and moping around, so she pulled herself together and look for another place to stay as the place she stayed with her grandmother is too big and expensive.

Yuichi Tanabe, a young flower shop delivery man who also knew Mikage's grandmother, offers her his place where he shares with his mother. Eriko's mother is an extraordinary "woman". Apart from her cheerfulness and her generosity, she is actually a transvestite and is Yuichi's biological father. How he had became Yuichi's "mother" is another a sad and a complex tale to tell. It had seemed so natural for him being a transvestite after he had lost his wife and funny enough, I do not find it distasteful.

So the three of them live under one roof, although Mikage and Yuichi hardly see Eriko around at home as she owned a club. As the days goes by, Mikage feels closer with Yuichi and Eriko, whom the latter treats her as one of her own children. However, everything changes after Eriko is murdered and it is Yuichi's turn to grieve. And soon Mikage and Yuichi will learn something more about life and death and being there for each other and moving on is what most matters.

Here are a few passages I like:

By Eriko:

"If a person wants to stand on her own two feet, I recommend undertaking the care and feeding of something. It could be children, or it could be house plants, you know? By doing that you come to understand your own limitations. That's where it starts."

"... But if a person hasn't ever experienced true despair, she grows old never knowing how to evaluate where she is in life; never understanding what joy really is. I'm grateful for it."

By Mikage:

"I had come to understand that despair does not necessarily result in annihilation, that one can go on as usual in spite of it, I had become hardened. Was that what it means to be an adult, to live with ugly ambiguities? I didn't like it, but it made it easier to go on."

There is a novella, Moonlight Shadow, also featured in Kitchen which is another haunting story about loss and acceptance. Like Kitchen, I was captivated by Banana Yoshimoto's prose. I find Moonlight Shadow and Kitchen are very much alike in some ways, whereby life and death are the main issues of the story. However, Moonlight Shadow leaves a bittersweet feeling and reading it had brought tears to my eyes. As much as I love this story, I do not wish to elaborate much as I fear I may not do justice to it. You simply have to read it and understand how I felt, and that is it.


Other blog reviews:
(Let me know if I have missed yours.)
21 Responses
  1. violetcrush Says:

    I remember reading a review of this on Eva's blog. Your review is so nice and sweet that I am tempted to read this book. I haven't read the other book you've mentioned too. I feel as if I am missing out on a really great book. Thanks. Both the books go to my wishlist.


  2. Julia Says:

    Sound like the book will be close to your heart :)

    Great review !


  3. I am glad you were able to find a copy of this book, Melody. It's fun to find new books while on vacation that are hard to find elsewhere, isn't it?

    This sounds like a very touching book, Melody. Those books that speak to our hearts, are very special indeed. I will definitely be adding it to my wish list.


  4. Melody Says:

    Violet - Thanks for telling me about Eva's review! :)

    You should read this book. I think you might like it. I'll surely look out for her other books in the near future! And if you're going to read Philippa Gregory's books, I do recommend The Other Boleyn Girl as it is the one which started me to read her books! ;)

    Julia - Yes. As I said, it struck a chord in my heart!

    Wendy - Indeed! Whenever I am visiting other countries, I always make sure to make a stop at their bookstores. ;)

    I'm glad to hear you'll be adding this book to your wishlist. I think you may like it.


  5. Alice Teh Says:

    Hi Melody, I'm glad you managed to find the book while on vacation. That's a great review and into my wishlist it goes!

    Have a great weekend!


  6. Melody Says:

    Alice - Thank you! I'm glad to hear it's on your wishlist as well! :)

    You too have a great weekend!


  7. Sandy Nawrot Says:

    OK, its going down on my list as I speak. You convinced me. I completely understand how it feels to be besotted with a book and feel helpless to truly express its beauty.


  8. joanna Says:

    I read this last year and loved it too! Here's my review:
    http://lostinagoodstory.blogspot.com/2008/11/kitchen.html

    This is one of the things I really loved about this community, I'm finding out about so many books that I never would have stumbled upon otherwise!


  9. Debi Says:

    Oh Melody, what a beautiful review! I must, must, must get this book! Thank you!


  10. Dar Says:

    Wonderful review Melody! This sounds like a book I would really like. Anything revolving around kitchens and cooking with a good story to go along with it is perfect in my world. I'm going to have to check if it's available in Canada.


  11. Iliana Says:

    Wonderful review Melody. I think the power of this novel was in really getting across the feeling of "aloneness" you know. I really like your copy - cool cover!


  12. Nymeth Says:

    Her writing is lovely, isn't it? This will be my next book of hers for sure. I have a feeling I'll love it too :)


  13. Matt Says:

    I'm familiar with the author but not with the book. But the story intrigues me.


  14. Trish Says:

    Beautiful review, Melody. When I was looking for books for the Japanese Challenge I saw this one but didn't know what it was about (and I have to admit, I wasn't drawn in by the cover). I'll definitely have to search for this one for this year's challenge, though! What good luck finding it on vacation!


  15. Shana Says:

    This sounds like a book I'd like, Melody. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


  16. naida Says:

    sounds wonderful! great review ;O)
    I need to add this to my TBR.

    http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/


  17. Melody Says:

    Sandy - I'm glad to hear you're adding this book to your wishlist! I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it if you've read it. :)

    Joanna - Thanks for the link, Joanna! I share the same thoughts about this community too!

    Debi - Yes! You MUST get this book! I think you might like it! :)

    Dar - I hope you're able to find this book! Can't wait to hear your thoughts too! :)

    Iliana - The cover is awesome, isn't it? I think her others are equally stunning too!

    Nymeth - Her writing is indeed lovely. I like her writing style. I'm hoping to read Goodbye, Tsugumi next! But first, I need to find the book! ;P

    Matt - The story is really intriguing and inspiring. I'm particular drawn to the characters too, they're so engaging!

    Trish - Thanks! I didn't expect to find this book during the vacation, but I was glad I did!

    Shana - I hope you'll enjoy it if you get to it. :)

    Naida - Thanks! I'm glad to hear you're adding this book to your list as well!


  18. valentina Says:

    I've never read any Yoshimoto yet, but if I had to start (and I will!) I'd choose Kitchen!


  19. Melody Says:

    Valentina - I hope you'll enjoy reading Kitchen if you get to it! :)


  20. Beth F Says:

    Great review and intriguing story. I'm not sure how I missed this one earlier.


  21. Melody Says:

    Beth - Thank you! I hope you'd read it if you get the chance. :)