Book review: Kitchen

Oct 15, 201822 comments

There is something with South East Asian Literature that I can’t put my finger to, they always leave me confused whether I like them or not. I picked Kitchen by Yoshimoto worrying if I will get it, especially seeing that it has several raving reviews on Goodreads.

I didn’t want to read the blurb and jumped directly into the book. Read on to know how that went.

About the book

Kitchen


Book Name: Kitchen

Author: Banana Yoshimoto

Genre: Fiction – Modern Classic, Literary,

Characters: Mikage Sakurai, Yuichi and Eriko Tanabe

Setting: Tokyo, Japan

Plot


Kitchen begins with Mikage Sakurai grieving the death of her grandmother, in their kitchen. Yuichi and his mother Eriko takes her in as she has no other family left. Mikage throws herself into cooking and food, which becomes part of her heart and dreams.

Eriko is a transvestite, who runs a gay night club and lives with her son Yuichi who studies at Uni. He was a man for a long time until his wife died and then he changes ‘her face and her everything’ with the help of operations. The busy mother – son gets closer to Miakge through her home cooked dinners, until Mikage moves away to pursue her culinary dreams. 

A few months later Eriko is murdered by a smitten man. Tides change and it is now Yuichi that has to face the loss and grief. How Mikage helps Yuichi to cope with the loss and how her passion for food keeps the friends sane forms the rest of the story in Kitchen. 

Kitchen is followed by a shorter tale named Moonlight Shadow in which the theme of grief and loss of beloved ones continue. Satsuki lost her boy friend Hitsohi to an unforeseen road accident. She picks up running to push her sorrows away. Hitoshi’s brother who lost his girlfriend in the same accident dresses in her favorite costume as a cope up mechanism.

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Satsuki meets Urara who tells her a way that can help her find a closure. Read the story to know if they find what they seek. 

My initial thoughts

Yoshimoto’s Kitchen is full of eccentric characters and I can’t think of a better word than weird right now to describe the plot. 

The leads in both the tales attempt to seek hope and overcoming of their destitution after the death. But how they attain that is way different.

Though both the stories are very minimal and to the point, I loved them like a fresh breath of air. Some stories make us long for more but Kitchen in all its incompleteness felt complete. I don’t want to know what Satsuki or Yuichi, who stayed in my mind long after I finished reading, did anymore because I know (and hope) they will be better. 

Here is where I am lost. I dunno if I love or hate Yoshimoto’s writing. There were places when the writing felt right and there were places that were just off. I might have to read more of Yoshimoto’s to conclude whether it was the writing or the translation that failed to make me love it. Or maybe that was how the book was intended to be. 

Things that worked for me

  • The simplistic narration talks about ordinary people leading a mundane life but had profound effect on me. 
  • Yoshimoto’s writing is not polished or lyrical, in fact it does not even mince words (but that might be just the translation), yet the simple prose hits the point at most places. 
  • I loved the usage of Kitchen as a metaphor and letting it play a character in the story.
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Things that didn’t work for me

  • Kitchen is not a plot driven novel. And if you are looking for one with lots of twists and turns, you will be severely disappointed. 
  • I felt the translation seemed off at places but I am not sure if it was intentional.
  • I am still not sure if the usage of transvestite and transgender is accurate. I think they were used interchangeably in the book, I might be wrong.

Bottom-line

If you liked The Vegetarian by Han Kang, you might like Kitchen as well.  You may like this one or not, but I am sure it will leave a lasting memory either way, just like it did for me.

Pin me!

Kitchen

Let us talk

Have you read this or anything from Japan? Do you like books that are not plot oriented? What other countries do you like me to read about? Let us talk. 

22 Comments

  1. Katiria Rodriguez

    Great honest review, I am really scared to read any translated books because I am scared that I will get confused or lost within the story. I am sorry this book didn’t really work out for you I hope you next read is a much better one. Thank you so much for sharing your awesome post.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      I am still confused if I liked it or not.

      Reply
  2. Whispering Stories

    Sounds really interesting. Great review. I’ve not read many books from Southern Asia

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      I have not too. But I am trying to change that.

      Reply
  3. Robin Taylor

    This is rather interesting. Wouldn’t read it though.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      I totally get why you would decide that.

      Reply
  4. Megan @ Ginger Mom and the Kindle Quest

    I haven’t read anything from Japan. This one has been on my radar for a bit but haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Thanks to the A-Z challenge that you have been hosting, I am reading books I don’t usually do.

      Reply
  5. DJ Sakata

    Somethings just don’t translate well, like idioms and slang

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      May be that it is just me.

      Reply
  6. Christine

    This sounds kind of confusing for me which kind of prevents me from wanting to pick it up. Thanks for sharing what you thought of it.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Yes it is definitely a bit confusing for me as well.

      Reply
  7. Sarah Nowicki

    Sounds intriguing, but probably not my cup of tea. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      I understand why you think so.

      Reply
  8. Jo Linsdell

    Sounds like an interesting, and a bit confusing, read.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      I agree to that.

      Reply
  9. Shantala

    I haven’t yet read The Vegetarian so I can’t judge this book based on that. From your review, I feel like I should give this a pass – as I am so conflicted just reading the review – don’t even want to imagine what effect the book will have, lol.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      I wished I loved this one, I tried so hard too.

      Reply
  10. Jenn @ Bound to Writing

    Great review, Gayathri! This seems like quite the confusing read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Yes, it was confusing. I am still not sure on the verdict.

      Reply
  11. kindleandkompass

    Never actually read any books from Japan or other Asian countries.. I’ve read a few books by Pakistani and Bhutanese writers and loved them.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      I have never read Bhutanese ones, though I have read a Pakistani one. Can you share the titles?

      Reply

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Hello there!

Gayathri loves reading, recommending books and talking about bookish things in real life. Her blog is just an extension of that habit. When she is not reading books or creating online content, she freelances as a beta reader. She lives currently in Dubai.Head over to meet me

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