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The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto

The Lake (edition 2011)

by Banana Yoshimoto, Michael Emmerich (Translator)

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3402332,303 (3.47)22
Title:The Lake
Authors:Banana Yoshimoto
Other authors:Michael Emmerich (Translator)
Info:Melville House (2011), Hardcover, 192 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto



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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
'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 |
After the death of her mother, Chihiro moved to Tokyo in an attempt to run away from her grief and start a new life. Tokyo also offered the opportunity to try and kick start her dream career as a graphic artist. It was here, she met and befriended Nakajima, and their friendship quickly blossomed into a relationship. The Lake is a beautiful and mysterious novel about a blossoming relationship and the baggage that comes with it.

I have often heard great things about the writing of Banana Yoshimoto and one day I just thought it was time to find out for myself. I checked my local library and eventually decided to start with The Lake. I decided to read this one for multiple reasons and I was pleasantly surprised with this novel. The best way to describe reading this book is like floating on a lake. It was relaxing and I felt myself drifting through the book. Soon I realised I drifted so far out and into a dangerous situation.

I will not go into the plot in detail; experiencing this novel without any knowledge is highly recommended. Yoshimoto knows how to write a wonderful story that sweeps you away, but not only that, her characters have so much depth to them. The baggage brought into the relationship becomes a prime focus of the psychological elements within The Lake.

While Chihiro was dealing with grief, Nakajima was dealing with something more complex and damaging. What I liked about this novel is the way Nakajima sometimes wanted to try to rise above his issues and other times it was leading him into depression. I think Banana Yoshimoto created a very real depiction of depression, exploring the ups and downs flawlessly.

After one Banana Yoshimoto novel, I can say I am a fan and want to read everything she has written. Well, everything translated from Japanese into English (The Lake being translated by Michael Emmerich). I have heard many people rave about Kitchen and it might be the next Yoshimoto novel I pick up; it will depend on my library. Do yourself a favour; pick up a Banana Yoshimoto novel, and experience her writing for yourself.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://www.knowledgelost.org/book-reviews/genre/contemporary/the-lake-by-banana-... ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 13, 2015 |
Originally posted at my blog, a review blog of sorts..."


Before I start, I just want to say that if you see this book at amazon, goodreads, book depository, the library, the book...basically anywhere that you can find this book. Do not, under any circumstances, read the synopsis past the point that I've posted here. Why? Because the synopsis kind of spoils the book. So if you plan on reading this, don't read the synopsis.

I've only read one book by Banana Yoshimoto, Asleep, which I enjoyed. I love her writing style and how it gives off a very dreamy sort of style. I'm still not sure if it's correctly translated, but I think for the most part, Michael Emmerich did a great job.

The story is about Chihiro and Nakajima and their complicated relationship. Chihiro is still suffering from the death of her mother and it's clear that Nakajima has a painful past that no one could ever imagine. (unless you read the synopsis, so don't!) The more Nakajima learns to trust Chihiro, the more she wants to heal him. It's a complicated relationship, but one that both of them want and need.



The Lake is a relatively short book. It's only 192 pages. But after reading Asleep and now The Lake, I've noticed that even though her books are short they feel longer. I remember reading this and feeling like a long time has passed, but I was only on page 70. Now, whether this is a bad thing or a good one is entirely up to the reader.

As far as the story goes, it's okay. There is a sense of loneliness, grief, and pain throughout the pages. This is a pretty dark book, but one that I thought was quite good. Like I mentioned before, I became a fan of Yoshimoto's writing style after reading Asleep and I was glad that the same translator was used for both books. When I read her books I feel a sense of disconnect from her characters, but they still keep me engaged. It's weird, but it's one of the things that I like about her writing.

The Lake does start off slow and I did feel like it dragged on at some points, but I still enjoyed my time reading this.

ps. Did I mention that you shouldn't read the synopsis? ( )
  pdbkwm | Sep 8, 2014 |
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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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