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44
4.1 out of 5 stars
Kitchen
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2009
This is the first book that I read of Yoshimoto's work. This piece was really different from the type of books that I usually read but I was pleasantly surprised. The theme of this book is quite an unusual one of our main character's struggle to come to terms with the death of the last member of family that she has. Felling utterly alone, Mikage comes to live with a friend and his transsexual mother and we learn of each of their stories. Mikage finds comfort in one of the most mundane things in our lives, the kitchen. Here she finds the time to heal and come to terms with the great loss that she feels. Yoshimoto uses simple imagery to portray complex ideas which makes it a refreshing and enjoyable read. Her style of writing also draws you into the world of the characters. Although this book does not go into much depth outside of the ideas of loss and mourning, this being my only criticism, I would recommend this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto was always going to find its way into my life somehow. Im a fan of Haruki Murakami, and after reading a sparkling review of Kitchen, i decided to give it a go.

The author notes in the preface that this is a story that she has always wanted to tell, and the agonising emotions laid down throughout the book are not dissimilar to the outpouring of feeling a band will display in thier first album. and although the story can be at times confusing and impulsive, Yoshimoto throws pure feeling at us with every page.

The main story revolves simply around a boy and a girl falling beautifully for eachother, however around love is a landscape littered with sadness and the death of almost everyone else they ever felt for.
Unmistakably Japanese in style, and unique in the way the words are placed upon the pages, i would recommend Kitchen to anyone who is looking for something truly original to read.

It is tough going at times, but the words flow easliy enough to make sure that the read is satisfying and will leave you looking at things around you through different eyes. A simple but nevertheless decent book.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2007
This is one of the most famous Japanese postmodern novels. The main plot about a modern young woman struggling with grief and trying to find love is very touching and delicately handled really. A female protagonist obsessed with kitchens sounds potentially annoying, but she is actually quite likeable, and it is obvious a lot of Yoshimoto's personal experiences and affections have gone into her character. The plot follows Mikage's attempts to reconstruct her life after it was shattered by the death of the last member of her family.

It is interesting and unique, introducing many daring and ununsual themes, such as obsession, bereavement, motherhood and transsexualism. The novel does not go into much depth in its discussions of these themes, mostly relying on a certain ineffable something to convey its message. The characters' personality deformities are treated as natural and even endearing, and the often bizarre nature of the themes is accepted as an inevitable part of life.

There is nothing really deep about this novel. One feels concern and affection for the fates of the characters, and an interest in the themes of the novel. However, it is very short - I read it in one sitting. I believe there could have been room to discuss in depth some of the interesting issues that Yoshimoto raises here, but I suppose that was neither her intention nor desire. Perhaps she wishes to say that it is pointless worrying about such things, that one should just accept them and carry on with life, because otherwise something wonderful might be missed in the present or just around the corner.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 7 October 2013
Mikage, the heroine of Banana Yoshimoto's novella 'Kitchen' is an orphan who, since the death of her parents, has been cared for by her grandmother, who lives in a large apartment with a very comfortable and comforting kitchen. When her grandmother sadly dies, Mikage finds solace by taking her bed into the kitchen and sleeping next to the old refrigerator with its reassuring hum. Mikage knows she can't continue to spend her days and nights ensconced in the comfort of her grandmother's kitchen, but she can't seem to find the energy to move her life forward; therefore when an acquaintance of hers, a young man named Yuichi Tanabe, offers her a home with him and his very glamorous mother, Eriko, in their well-appointed apartment, Mikage finds herself agreeing - and when she arrives at the Tanabes' home and falls immediately in love with their kitchen, she knows she has come to the right place.

As Mikage gets to know Yuichi better, she realises he is a more interesting and unusual young man than she first thought, but Yuichi's mother (who, before her sex change, was his father) is an even more unusual individual. However both Yuichi and Eriko make Mikage feel welcomed and wanted, and slowly, as she spends more time with the Tanabes, Mikage begins to cope with the loss of her beloved grandmother. But then something happens to Eriko that changes the dynamics of Mikage and Yuichi's relationship - however is this a change for the better or worse for our two protagonists?

First-person narrated by Mikage, this is an unusual and off-beat love story, written in a charming, idiosyncratic style which, in places, has passages which seem almost dreamlike. One to read and enjoy in one sitting (this is more novella than novel) and then possibly to put back on the bookshelf to experience again when you feel the need for something a little different.

4 Stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2008
It is true that Yoshimoto expresses a well structured, easy going and promising prose in this book but I personally found her writing rather cold and lacking in empathy. The result is that this book, which is centered on two very easily moving issues (love and death), is incapable of emotionally involving the reader and leaves nothing to really remember in the long run.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Banana Yoshimoto's sparse style of prose evokes a serene sense of repose. It's protagonist, Mikage, is so endearing that one feels that they are reading the intimacies of a close friend. The recently bereaved Mikage finds comfort in Yuichi. Mikage's mourning is averted when Yuichi suffers his own loss. The pain of their mutual bereavement brings the couple together. Mikage and Yuichi find solace in one another, and their touching relationship is both uplifting and inspirational. Kitchen is a novel that is cast with shadows, but is tinged with rays of hope.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I came across Banana Yoshimoto quite by accident, and what a happy accident it was. She is a modern Japanese writer who is both accessible to Western readers and yet resolutely Japanese in style and content. Her work is highly rated in Japan, and I can see why. She writes with a lyricism and sparseness that at times resembles poetry, but never shies away from the sometimes grim realities of every day life. The books are always short, novella length, but have so much in them they can stand reading and re-reading. Kitchen is my favourites of her work. The narrator, struggles to come to terms with the death of a close friend and her complex relationship with his son. The story sounds slight, but nothing could be further from the truth.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2003
It is this book that Banana Yoshimoto first enthralled me with. I read it in two sittings and in it she creates an incredible image of Japanese life. Though written a couple of decades ago, it is timeless, and the ordinary treatment of Mikage's strikingly different Japanese lifestyle makes this so unique to a Westerner such as myself. Though the subjects are apparently bland, there is always a slight air of the supernatural in the way the events are put forward, and the prose is enchanting - there is the very real possibility of both laughing and crying with genuine sadness within two pages of each other!
It is hard to write about a book I love so much without bias, but it is truly difficult to find any flaws in the book. Perhaps the second tale is a little contrived and the jump between them is bewildering as there is little introduction to the second tale, but this may perhaps be intentional.
The subject of food and kitchens is one that I could easily relate to, even across the continental divide and even though I am not a particular 'foodie'. It is the incredible description of a kitchen that can really make you stop reading and think, not of any particular image of a kitchen, but of the exact mood you know Mikage feels as she dreams of her old kitchen and steps into her new, foreign but friendly kitchen. The way Banana Yoshimoto elevates the kitchen to such high importance is amazing.
The whole episode of going out in the middle of the night and chancing upon an incredibly good take-away restaurant and then going hundreds of miles by taxi and climbing up the side of a hotel to deliver some food is incredibly ridiculous, but it is because the author seems to agree 'isn't this strange?' that you have to laugh even when the twisted tale gets more and more distressing.
It is a dumbfounding book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2013
Read in both Japanese and English. Her unique style is sadly lost in translation. It would be very difficult to translate in English the rhythm, onomatopoeia,change of mood, though. Original Japanese version is much better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2011
A lovely heartwarming book - beautifully written.
Food for thought.
Made me want to eat chicken noodle soup!

Don't let the fact that it's only 150 pages long - it still felt like I had been on a journey.
If a story can be told in 150 pages why pad it out with nonsense for the sake of it?

Clutter free and cleansing for the soul.

I do think this book is an acquired taste though - but will, without doubt have you thinking about it for a while after.
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