Just Thoughts: Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto

I finished this book about a week ago, and I’m still flummoxed.  It’s short, only 152 pages, and is actually comprised of two stories:  ‘Kitchen’ and ‘Moonlight Shadow.’  I didn’t particularly care for it, but I am at a loss to explain why.  So I can’t really call this a review … just a few thoughts:

  • The blurb on the back cover calls Kitchen Yoshimoto’s “best-loved book … an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan.”
  • Kitchen is translated from the Japanese.  The writing comes across as unsophisticated, almost juvenile.  I suppose it could be the result of poor translation.
  • Both stories deal with grief and loss.  While I could understand the grief characters felt after losing loved ones, the language felt flat and neutral.  And in ‘Kitchen,’ I knew the kitchen itself, and food, were supposed to be important but the prose didn’t convey the sensuality and power of food and cooking.

I’m taking part in an online conversation about this book and held off for a while hoping to get some new insights that would help me better appreciate this book.  It hasn’t happened, and I’m ready to move on.

4 thoughts on “Just Thoughts: Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto

  1. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy this more; it was the first of her books that I’ve read, so although I did count it amongst my favourites, and although she is a MRE author for me, I don’t have any specific ideas about why you might not have felt engaged in the story so many years later. I do remember reading some interviews and articles about death/dying in Japanese culture at the time, but I’m not sure if I loved the book first, or if my love for it grew after I had done some more reading about the author and the themes that haunt her work. And maybe I just discovered it at the perfect time.

  2. I remember loving this book when I read it, but that was a very long time ago and I’m afraid I can’t remember a thing about it now. I guess all that shows is that it has made no lasting impression on me, but I wish I could offer some insight about what I did love. Hopefully your discussion will bring that.

  3. BIP & Jackie, I wish I knew why it didn’t “click.” Especially since I went searching for other reviews, which were inevitably favorable. I was hoping to justify my own “meh” ! Oh well, just not my thing.

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