First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
When Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen was published in Japan in 1988, “Banana-mania” seized the country. Kitchen won two of Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes, climbed its way to the top of the best-seller list, then remained there for over a year and sold millions of copies. With the appearance of the critically acclaimed Tugumi (1989) and NP (1991), the Japanese literary world realized that in Banana Yoshimoto it was confronted not with a passing fluke but with a full-fledged phenomenon: a young writer of great talent and great passion whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of twentieth-century Japanese literature.
Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book that juxtaposes two tales about mothers, transsexuality, kitchens, love, tragedy, and the terms they all come to in the minds of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Told in whimsical style that recalls the early Marguerite Duras, Kitchen and its companion story, Moonlight Shadow, are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a masterful storyteller. They are the work of a very special new writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul.
Happy Friday everyone! I am a bit under the weather earlier today but I am now starting to feel better. Despite this unexpected end to my birthday week, I hope you all had a great end to the week. I hope you are all doing well in the midst of the uncertainties surrounding all of us. I sure hope this pandemic ends soon so that we can go back to the way things were before COVID-19 spread its tentacles all over the world. On another note, I hope you will all have a great weekend.
But before we can move to the weekends, let me share my latest First Impression Friday update. My reading journey this July has landed me on the Land of the Rising Sun, to immerse in the depths of Japanese Literature. Over the years, I have developed an admiration for Japanese literature; it has become some sort of comfort zone. For this First Impression Friday post, I am featuring Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen. Kitchen is a title that I kept on encountering in several online booksellers. However, I was a little ambivalent at first. But after several recommendations from fellow readers, and after noting that it was listed as part of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die List, I finally managed to overcome my ambivalence.
In Kitchen, I was introduced to Mikage Sakurai. She recently lost her grandmother. Mikage was raised by her grandparents after her parents died when she was young. With the death of her grandfather when she was in junior high school, her grandmother was the last remaining thread to a family she had. Her grandmother’s sudden death left Mikage heartbroken. But as the saying goes, every ending is a new beginning. As Mikage started mustering the courage to move on, an unexpected character entered her life.
Yuichi Tanabe was a friend of Mikage’s grandmother although she barely knew about him as he was an enigmatic character. Nonetheless, Yuichi barged into Mikage’s life and asked if she could stay with him and his mother, who is not really his mother in a pleasant and unexpected way, as I would later on learn. Mikage had her reservations; I mean, who easily trusts a stranger who abruptly enters one’s life. But as fate would have it, Mikage and Yuichi got along. Eriko, Yuichi’s mother, was a glue that bonded them together.
One of the novel’s facets that surprised me was its exploration of transsexuality. The novel was published in the late 1980s in a society that is largely considered to be traditional and yet the novel was warmly received. It also explored grief and sorrow but what I am really looking forward to is the coming-of-age of both Mikage and Yuichi. Their relationship does have a Rosie Dunne – Alex Stewart (of Cecilia Ahern’s Where Rainbows End, or more popularly, Dear Rosie) ring to it. However, I am hoping that their relationship will develop quicker than the aforementioned Irish pair.
Kitchen is supposed to be a quick read but me being under the weather this past two days have really hampered me from enjoying any activity. I am, nevertheless, hopeful that I would complete it soon. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!