The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto
While THE LAKE shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous--a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pave--it's also one of the most darkly mysterious books she's written yet.
It tells the take of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. Her artwork frustrates her, though, and she finds herself spending too much time staring out her window . . . until gradually she notices a young man across the street who spends a lot of time staring out his window, too.
They embark on a strangely hesitant romance--hesitant, she comes to realize, because of something unspeakable has happened to him. But what? She begins to piece together a series of clues that lead to two old friends of his who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake . . .
With its echos of the infamous, real-life Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the Tokyo subway system), THE LAKE unfolds as one fo the most powerful novels Banana Yoshimoto has ever written. And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the lake, it's also one of her most moving.
That's a summary for ya! I was very excited to start reading this book. I won it in a contest, the first book I've ever won, too, so that was exciting. I've just heard lots of praise for this book. I thought it was long on promises and short on delivery.
At first I was very grabbed by Yoshimoto's writing. At the first paragraph I was drawn into the book. But as I read on, it became difficult to hold my attention on the book. Yoshimoto's writing style is unique. She jumps around and can't seem to stay on one subject for more than a few paragraphs it seems like! I do love the art metaphors and similes that Yoshimoto threw into the book to describe how Chihiro (the main character) felt about her artwork. The examples were truly magnificent.
The characters were different than any I've ever read about before. When Chihiro lost her mother, it was like she lost two parents because she and her father became so distant. And her relationship with her mom . . . I feel like she has very conflicting feelings for her mother. At one moment she misses her immensly, and then she is so mad at her mom! I couldn't really tell how she felt about the whole situation.
I couldn't seem to really connect with any of the characters. Nakijima is so strange. He studies constantly and is super smart, but so deeply wounded in a way I couldn't understand. He is almost weak, and he is very anti-social. But if you really want strange, Mino and Chii are the characters for you. Chii is bed-ridden and talks through Mino somehow. It was confusing at times, very different then anything I've ever read before.
Throughout the book, there wasn't any action. It was mostly just conversations between the characters, or even more, thoughts and feelings, and summaries of experiences. The few times when conflicts actually arose in the story, they were quickly and easily overcome. There was no depth.
Overall I have very mixed feelings about the book. The ending really made up for a lot in the book, but I was still weighed down with everything else. I just couldn't connect with this story as well as I hoped I could have.
Overall Rating: 3 Stars