Melody
ISBN-13: 9781933633770
Publisher: Melville House Publishing
Published: May 2011
Format: Hardcover, 208 pgs
Translated by: Michael Emmerich
Source: Personal Library




I first came across the name of Banana Yoshimoto when I read about Iliana's review on one of her books, Kitchen. Intrigued by the three factors (Iliana's lovely review, the author's name and the title as well) I decided to pick it up and read it. The end result of that decision have made me fallen in love with Yoshimoto's prose and I began to seek her books thereafter.

In this novel, Yoshimoto delves into the relationship between a mural painter and a student. Before your mind wanders anywhere else, let me assure you that the relationship between these two protagonists didn't fall into the 'forbidden' category. In fact I want to share with you that the encounter and the relationship between Chihiro and Nakajima is one of the most unique and 'strange' among all the books I read thus far.

30-year-old Chihiro paints murals and she has been living with her mother all the while until her passing. Being born out of wedlock and raised single-handed by her Mama-san mother, it is no surprise that Chihiro's childhood isn't all that happy. Although she still sees her father occasionally, there is no deep bonding between them as she knew her relatives, in particularly her father's family, don't treat her as their own. Despite this, Chihiro didn't feel much sense of resent towards them but she does feel sorry for her mother. The death of her mother affected her much in a way that she lives her life numbly, until she befriends a young man who lives across the street. You can say their encounter is rather special as they knew each other after they caught each other staring out from their windows.

Chihiro and Nakajima eventually live together in her apartment, but their romance is rather hesitant and a distant one. There may be times they feel they knew nothing much about each other, but yet they also feel they need each other at the same time. Chihiro has not much idea about Nakajima's past life except that he excels in his advanced program in genetics studies. It is only one day that he mentioned about visiting his two friends living in the countryside that Chihiro began to catch a glimpse of Nakajima's past and understand the trauma that he has gone through during his childhood which what shaped his life and make him what he is today.

Without spoiling the story, I won't indulge you with the details but I have to say hearing his side of the story astounded me. But aside from this (which I feel is the core of the story), it is also very much about redemption, the love of a mother and well, loneliness. I didn't mention much about my mother or her passing in 2006, but I just want to say that reading this book has evoked all the memories and emotions I had of my mother. Through Chihiro's narrative, I can totally relate to her and shared her grief. Towards the end, there is also a scene which made me think of the great love of a mother towards her child. However, is too much love and being overprotective a good or a bad thing? Will it lead to self-defeating results? (And no, this is not a spoiler.)

The Lake is a powerful story filled with emotional depth and will haunt you after finishing the book. Once again, I was mesmerised by Yoshimoto's lyrical prose and her ability in weaving a terrific, thought-provoking story out of the mundane, and that is no easy feat in my opinion.
12 Responses
  1. bermudaonion Says:

    I really want to try Yoshimoto's work - you've made this one sound so good, I think I should start with it.


  2. Kailana Says:

    Banana Yoshimoto is an author I have wanted to try for a while, but my library doesn't have any of the books. :(


  3. Veens Says:

    I have this one with me. And your review has made me want to go back and pick it up again.
    Great review.


  4. Iliana Says:

    Excellent review Melody! I am so glad you gave her a try - I think one of the things that drew me to her books was her name too. It's just so great isn't it? :)

    This is on my list to read for sure!


  5. Violet Says:

    Great review Melody, I have this book and now I can't wait to read it.


  6. naida Says:

    This sounds like a moving read and something that touched you on a personal level. Nice review!


  7. Melody Says:

    Hi my friends!! I love Banana Yoshimoto's books! If you haven't try her books, you should! :)


  8. Uniflame Says:

    The thing I have with Japanese authors is that the way they tell a story is so different from how Western authors tell one. It is always slow going for me. Still I am drawn to Japanese authors in some way. I never read anything of Banana Yoshimoto yet, but I probably will in the future.


  9. Suko Says:

    Wonderful review, Melody. As you know I recently read and reviewed The Lake as well.


  10. Ceri Says:

    Wow, this is an excellent review, Mel. Really well written with so much detail (but not too much ;) ) to keep us interested. I'm now fascinated and intrigued by the story and want to know more. :D


  11. I have Kitchen on my shelf, waiting to go, so will get to this at some point, good review, thanks.


  12. Staci Says:

    I loved Kitchen so I'm more than thrilled to read your thoughts on this one. I have a copy on my Kindle!!