Books in Translation, #4: The Lake, by Banana Yoshimoto

The LakeThe Lake by Banana Yoshimoto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this book because a) Banana Yoshimoto (Kitchen was one of my most beloved books of my college years) and b) Melville House (my favorite publisher).

There is a phrase in the discussion questions at the end of this book that I just can’t get away from. Yoshimoto’s writing has been described as “deceptively simple,” and I think that’s exactly right. Reading her prose is kind of like looking at pictures through the melancholic soft focus filters so popular on Instagram, but then, the actual subject matter is so incredibly sharp: losing a parent, classism, the commodification of the arts, and the central mystery of the book — just what happened to Nakajima as a child?

Calling her characters quirky is dismissive to the point of rudeness. If they are odd, it is in their rare capacity to own and be honest about their woundedness, and in their respectful care of each other. Quirky if bravery and gentleness are quirks.

Not your ordinary love story. More lovely than that.

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