Book review:

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto¬†is a story of love, loss, the complexity of human relationships, and, not surprisingly, kitchens. I think the book was an easy read and it was nice to concentrate on other peoples’ problems rather than my own for a change. ūüėÄ ūüėÄ ūüėÄ ūüėÄ

Character analysis:

The whole book circles around a young Japanese woman in her twenties, Mikage Sakurai, and the story is in a diary-like first person narrative from her point of view. In the beginning of the book she had just lost the last person in her family, her grandmother, which of course makes her depressed. She also has trauma from losing her parents at a young age.

She becomes a tenant at¬†the Tanabe¬†household and creates a close bond with both the mother (former father) Eriko¬†and the son Yuichi. When Eriko dies, she, once again, has to deal with the grief of death in the family.¬† About her death she says: “When my parents died I was still a child. When my grandfather died, I had a boyfriend. When my grandmother died I was left all alone. But never have I felt so alone as I did now.”

Mikage¬†as a person is a bit clingy, but¬†she¬†has all the reason to¬†considering the rate of people kicking off around her. She’s also¬†rather unsure about herself and her actions, but can also be feisty and impulsive when needed. Remember the way she drives miles,¬†climbs over a fence and through a hotel window and accidentally¬†cuts her leg all¬†because¬†the girl¬†simply felt like¬†having to share some especially delicious take-away¬†katsudon with Yuichi? If that isn’t out of the blue, I sure can’t say what is.

I think she outwards¬†is quite a cheerful, easy-going and open-minded person, who makes friends with the right kind of people for her. The open-mindedness¬†really shows¬†with the transgender¬†mother figure and that strange kitchen… well, not fetish, but rather an obsession. Well, who cares, we all draw our comfort¬†from something.

In the cases of both the Tanabes¬†she goes from friendship to love, for Eriko¬†Mikage¬†goes from depressed to who-cares-I-still-have-the-memories throughout¬†the story. The angst she felt in the beginning did come back during the sad period after Eriko’s¬†death but¬†the young woman¬†learnt to hold her head up high and to take life as it comes. Her route goes via the happy family to the loving relationship with Yuichi. She loves Eriko as a mother figure and Yuichi as a potential (later real) boyfriend.

There sure is character development in the book, mostly because literature in Japan does not emphasize the plot as much as the characters’ inner feelings and mental growth. This may sometimes leave the plots thin but if one is looking for round characters and philosophy, this is the place to look for it.

Bibliography:

Banana Yoshimoto: Kitchen. London 1993.

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