21 November 2011

The Lake - Banana Yoshimoto

Translated by Michael Emmerich
While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous—a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.
It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though … until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.
They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre religious cult. . . .
With its echoes of the infamous, real-life Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the Tokyo subway system), The Lake unfolds as the most powerful novel Banana Yoshimoto has written. And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the lake in the country- side, it’s also one of her most moving.


There is perhaps no other author like Banana Yoshimoto.  She writes with a spare beauty, delicately examining the nuances and secret places of the human heart.  In this, her latest novel, she quietly explores love and loss, alienation and fear.  Chihiro and Nakajima are wayward souls adrift in a sea of faceless humanity.  They manage to forge a cautious friendship that eventually leads them into each others arms. 

This is not necessarily new territory-a lot of authors write about love.  It is in the way Yoshimoto writes about love, her unique way of communicating the intricacies of such a complicated emotion that breathes new life into a well worn subject.  It is in her style, her precise use of language...each word placed with care and forethought, her innate realization that complexity begs for simplicity not the other way around.

I adore Banana Yoshimoto. I hope you will too.  I read her first novel, Kitchen, many years ago and have been enamored ever since.  If you ever get the opportunity to read one of her books I do suggest Kitchen but failing that The Lake is equally lovely. 

If you are so inclined there are discussion questions available for this book HERE.



BANANA YOSHIMOTO wrote her first novel, Kitchen, while working as a waitress at a golf-course restaurant. It sold millions of copies worldwide, and led to a phenomenon dubbed by Western journalists as “Banana-mania.” Yoshimoto has gone on to be one of the biggest-selling and most distinguished writers in Japanese history, winning numerous awards for her work. The Lake is her thirteenth book of fiction.
MICHAEL EMMERICH has translated numerous books by Banana Yoshimoto, and is also famous for his translations of Nobel Prize-winner Yasunari Kawabata.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.


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