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The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto
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The Lake

by Banana Yoshimoto

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English (23)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All (25)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
This is a hard book to review, partly because I read it during a time when I was emotionally vulnerable, and partly because I read it in intervals over the course of two weeks, which makes me feel that I didn't do the book justice, and that I could've enjoyed it better.

Yoshimoto's strength is the intimacy with which she portrays emotions. Reading parts of the book feels like you are talking to your soulmate, the intensity of emotions and the frankness with which she portrays them makes you feel very close to the characters and forces you to make an emotional investment in them. Parts of the book are so powerful that I got misty-eyed and whimpered. I know I'm a sucker for damaged characters with troubled pasts, but Yoshimoto does more than just play to the tropes here. She creates characters and circumstances who are not only completely believable, but also act and behave with an intensity that makes them incredibly real. And there are profound displays of kindness peppered everywhere in the book, which makes it ultimately redeeming and leaves an optimistic aftertaste despite the darkness prevalent in the story.

A clear 5/5, and I cannot wait to read Goodbye, Tsugumi and Kitchen. ( )
  Crontab_e | Sep 19, 2017 |
Quirky. Unusual. But not her best, I feel. Yet, the pace of writing is fast and there are some beautiful lines that can settle in the quiet of your mind. ( )
  Soulmuser | May 30, 2017 |
'The Lake' is one of my favorite books in recent years.

I paged through the book in order to write a more concise review, but without writing a long-winded ramble, all I can say is that I find immense charm in the way that Yoshimoto allows her narrator to tell not only her own story, but that of her lover. In this case, I cannot offer critique so much as a list of everything about 'The Lake' that I love.

I love the recognition of personal flaws that has been rounded out by a will to move forward. I love that Chihiro and Nakajima have found each other in such a way, and that they do not pity or necessarily humor one another, so much as allow the other to exist where they are. Everything about their bond feels simultaneously bulletproof and delicate. There's a feeling of healing and promise, but there's still a fear that the bleaker aspects of humanity could bring all of it crashing down.

'The Lake' is one of those books where I'll sit down and read it cover-to-cover, but also enjoy just casually leafing through. It's such lovely prose, and full of raw, but not overdramatic emotion. ( )
  christina.h | Apr 6, 2016 |
For how short this book is, the number of times I was stopped short by a sentence or phrase or paragraph is really unbelievable. I just love the way Japanese works when it's translated into English, and Yoshimoto is such a promising prospect for me. I liked Kitchen, but it wasn't anything particularly notable. This book, though. I am going to remember it.

"It was an emotion that none of these people, struggling so hard to impose a shape on a life when life has no shape, could begin to understand."

"That's how I was. I felt close to people, but I didn't have any friends I could really share my life with, our hearts melting together. Something always failed to communicate."

"You never know you're happy until later. Because physical sensations like smells and exhaustion don't figure into our memories, I guess. Only the good bits bob up into view."

"He was quiet in the way people are when they believe the world would get along just fine without them."

"I felt how important the simplest things were, like feeling proud, finding something funny, stretching yourself, retreating into yourself."

"Here we were, two ridiculously fragile people, sliding along on a very thin layer of ice all the time, each of us ready to slip and take the other down at any moment, the most unsteady of couples—and yet I believed what I had said. It would be all right. Going along like that, I felt like we were high above the clouds, shining."
  mirikayla | Feb 8, 2016 |
Chihiro, a painter of murals, tells the story of The Lake. Her late mother was the owner and ‘mama-san’ of a club and her father is of some prominence in their small rural town. The book opens with her mother’s hospitalisation and death, which leaves Chihiro feeling lost and distanced and eventually she moves to Tokyo, where she meets Nakajima, who lives in the building diagonally across. She finds herself attracted to him.

There’s a tenacity in him that’s beyond all that. The intensity of a person unafraid of death, at the end of his rope.

Maybe that’s how I knew we would get along.

Yes there is an actual lake in this book.

“The water was so still you almost felt like it would absorb any sounds that reached it. The surface might have been a mirror. Then a wind blew up and sent small waves drifting across it. The only sound was the chirping of birds that whirled around us, high and low.”

Nakajima and Chihiro travel several hours to get to it, to a little shack by the lake that Nakajima and his mother used to live in, and which is now the home of Mino and Chii, siblings who make their living as clairvoyants. That is, Mino voices what the bedridden Chii ‘sees’. Mino also makes the most delicious tea, from spring water.

“The tea, made from leaves with a subtly smoky aroma, was so good I could feel my senses sharpening. It had a sweetness to it, and at the end of each sip I’d catch a whiff of fruit.”

And this is that kind of book that is to be read with a pot of steaming tea (lapsang souchong perhaps?) next to you - and I suppose if you have a view of a lake, that would be helpful. Because this is story that gradually awakens.

I made the mistake of glancing at an interview with Banana Yoshimoto about The Lake which revealed more than I cared to know (at the point of my reading progress). The Goodreads description also reveals just a little too much about the story. So hopefully I’ve managed not to, and if you are interested in reading this book, just jump right in and read it, without reading too much about it! Because Yoshimoto (and her translator) has written a book that seems, at first glance, simple, direct. But there is so much more beneath.

“But sometimes we encounter people like Nakajima who compel us to remember it all. He doesn’t have to say or do anything in particular; just looking at him, you find yourself face-to-face with the enormousness of the world as a whole. Because he doesn’t try to live in just a part of it. Because he doesn’t avert his gaze.

He makes me feel like I’ve suddenly awakened, and I want to go on watching him forever. That, I think, is what it is. I’m awed by his terrible depths.”

( )
  RealLifeReading | Jan 19, 2016 |
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The first time Nakajima stayed over, I dreamed of my dead mom.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Translated by Michael Emmerich.
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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.

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