Overview

A major literary sensation is back with a quietly stunning tour de force about the redemptive power of love.

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 pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.

It tells the ...
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The Lake

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Overview

A major literary sensation is back with a quietly stunning tour de force about the redemptive power of love.

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 pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.

It tells the tale 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. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though ... until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.

They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre secret from his past. . . .

With echoes of real life events, such as the Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the Tokyo subway system) and the kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korea, The Lake unfolds as the most powerful novel Banana Yoshimoto has written. And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the lake in the countryside, it’s also one of her most moving.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Yoshimoto (Kitchen) delves into an elusive romance between an artist and a student, each of whom bears scars from unusual upbringings, in this clever, off-beat novel. The 30-year-old narrator earns a modest living as a mural painter in Tokyo, supported by her businessman father whom she sees only occasionally since the death of her mother; her parents never married, as her mother was a Mama-san of a nightclub, her father the devoted customer, and his family dead-set against the match, seeding a deep sense of shame and inadequacy in the girl. Presently, she has befriended a curious young man, Nakajima, who begins to sleep over at her place, though chastely. A student in an advanced program of genetics, he hints at terrible secrets in his childhood, which are gradually revealed after the two visit Nakajima's very strange friends in the countryside, and it's revealed that Nakajima had been kidnapped as a boy by a cult and brainwashed. Unsettling as Nakajima's story is, the narrator has grown to cherish him and must decide if their uncommon connection—not passionate, but comforting and near-maternal—will bring lasting happiness. Yoshimoto's marvelously light touch is perfectly captured by Emmerich's pristine translation. (May)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Lake

"[The Lake] attests to the power of emotional intimacy to help even the most 'ridiculously fragile people' overcome trauma and grief."
Hirsh Sawhney, The New York Times Book Review

"The simplicity of this elliptical novel’s form and expression belies its emotional depth...There’s almost an artistic sleight of hand in the latest from Yoshimoto, a novel in which nothing much seems to happen yet everything changes."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review 

"Yoshimoto's marvelously light touch is perfectly captured by Emmerich's pristine translation."
Publishers Weekly 

"Yoshimoto aficionados who have savored any of the dozen-plus novels she’s written over the last three decades since she became a near-instant pop literary phenomenon with Kitchen will recognize her signature crisp, clipped style (thanks to exacting translator Emmerich’s constancy) and revel in her latest cast of quirky characters. Newbies with a penchant for Haruki Murakami’s mind-bending protagonists or Yoko Tawada’s sparse precision will do well to begin their so-called Bananamania with this beguiling title."  
Library Journal

"Reading [The Lake], you realize just how conventional most love stories are."
New York Times

"Touching."
—Miami Herald

"The Lake demonstrates Yoshimoto's deepening talent, and her craft for quietly revealing an enveloping and haunting world."
Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Yoshimoto is in peak form in this mesmerizing and suspenseful drama of the perils of brainwashing, from class bias to intrusive advertising to an infamous cult. Social conventions, memories and dreams, and the creative process are all explored with exquisite insight in Yoshimoto’s beautifully mystical and hopeful novel."
—Booklist

"Yoshimoto’s simplicity — both in prose and narrative — speaks to a mastery of form....The Lake will haunt you."
—Thought Catalog 

Praise for Banana Yoshimoto

“A sure and lyrical writer . . . Yoshimoto transforms the trite into the essential.”
—The New Yorker

“Ms. Yoshimoto has an effortless ability to penetrate her characters’ hearts.” 
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Banana Yoshimoto is a master storyteller. . . . The sensuality is subtle, masked, and extraordinarily powerful. The language is deceptively simple.”
—Chicago Tribune

“There is no such thing as a stock character in Yoshimoto’s fiction. She writes utterly without pretense.”
—The Washington Post

“The disturbing, ironic, relentless clarity of her voice casts a spell. . . .”
—The Denver Post

“Her achievements are already legend.”
—The Boston Globe

Library Journal
Balanced with deft reminders of impermanence—from vivid dreams and outdoor art to once-a-year cherry blossoms and death—Yoshimoto's latest is a love story with a higher-than-usual satisfying-sigh factor. Chihiro, an artist, and Nakajima, a graduate student in genetics, finally meet after watching and waving to each other from their respective apartment windows across a Tokyo street. They're both unconventional and seemingly untethered souls; they've both lost their beloved mothers. They meander into a sweet, simple life together, although past secrets involving a mysterious brother and sister who live by an ethereal lake threaten to create an emotional divide. VERDICT Yoshimoto aficionados who have savored any of the dozen-plus novels she's written over the last three decades since she became a near-instant pop literary phenomenon with Kitchen will recognize her signature crisp, clipped style (thanks to exacting translator Emmerich's constancy) and revel in her latest cast of quirky characters. Newbies with a penchant for Haruki Murakami's mind-bending protagonists or Yoko Tawada's sparse precision will do well to begin their so-called Bananamania with this beguiling title.—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews

The simplicity of this elliptical novel's form and expression belies its emotional depth.

There's almost an artistic sleight of hand in the latest from Yoshimoto (Hardboiled & Hard Luck, 2005, etc.), a novel in which nothing much seems to happen yet everything changes. Its narrator is a young Japanese woman, a graphic artist and muralist, on the cusp of 30 but still a relative innocent. She finds herself at a turning point, mourning the recent death of her mother, a death that spurs the daughter to uproot herself from her hometown and pursue her career amid the depersonalized anonymity of Tokyo. She takes an apartment, which offers a view of another apartment where a young man her age lives. "I had a habit of standing at my window, looking out, and so did Nakajima, so we noticed each other, and before long we started exchanging nods," she explains in the matter-of-fact prose that marks the narrative style. Nods lead to more expansive forms of voiceless communication, which leads the two to meet, which leads to love. Or something. "It was so gorgeous it almost felt like sadness," she writes of her feeling for the man she discovers is a haunted, frail medical student. "Like the feeling you get when you realize that, in the grand scheme of things, your time here on this earth really isn't that long after all." As the two bond over their dead mothers, she intuits that there are levels to his life and history that she can barely fathom. She gets a glimpse deeper into his soul when they make a pilgrimage to the lake of the title, to visit friends of his, a very mysterious brother and sister, whom she later suspects might not exist at all. The narrator and her lover bond in a way that isn't necessarily sexual and not exactly spiritual, but more "as if we were clinging to each other, he and I, at the edge of a cliff."

At one point the narrator feels like she is "inhabiting someone else's dream," which is the sort of effect the reader might experience as well.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935554691
  • Publisher: Melville House Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/3/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 236,545
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Banana Yoshimoto wrote her first novel, Kitchen, while working as a waitress at a golf-course restaurant. It sold millions of copies worldwide, and led to a phenomenon dubbed by Western journalists as “Banana-mania.” Yoshimoto has gone on to be one of the biggest-selling and most distinguished writers in Japanese history, winning numerous awards for her work. The Lake is her thirteenth book of fiction.

Michael Emmerich
has translated numerous books by Banana Yoshimoto, and is also known for his translations of Nobel Prize-winner Yasunari Kawabata.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 20 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(10)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    This book is haunting. It's one of those that, on the surface, is deceptively simple but that stays with you and invades your thoughts and dreams when you're not reading it. And since it's a relatively short book, it requires you to savor it, linger over passages that seem so common place and uncomplicated but that hit you like a truck when you let it sink in.

    What's it about? Ostensibly about two characters who have both experienced loss and, through an odd sort of courtship, find each other, learn how to love each other, and then help each other deal with grief. What the book does so well is show the organic process of building a relationship and overcoming grief.

    As in life, there are seldom quick answers to knotty issues like love and loss. What this book does so well is show how working through them is a process, how falling in love is a process, how coming to terms with pain is a process, and that it is those quiet, simple moments that we should recognize and revel in their power.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2011

    A beautiful, hypnotic novel.

    I read this on my NOOK as part of the "Japan Literature Challenge 5" and absolutely loved it. It started slowly, but then I became completely mesmerized by the strange love story and the odd but wonderfully human characters. I highly recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2012

    Deeply moving.

    A beautiful unconventional love story about two damaged and fragile youths in the prime of their lives falling in love. I thought this novel, though short, was absolutely amazing and a truly moving read. Those two below that thought it was boring have no idea what they have missed. I would recommend this to absolutely any and everyone. 4.7 stars.

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  • Posted March 30, 2012

    **A portion of all sales of this book will be donated to the Jap

    **A portion of all sales of this book will be donated to the Japan Disaster Relief Fund**

    Brief Synopsis: It tells the tale 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. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though ... until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.
    They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre religious cult. . . .

    My Thoughts: I have read one other Banana Yoshimoto novel for a Non-Western literature class, and I loved it. Naturally, I was excited when I got this from NetGalley. I was not disappointed at all.
    Both Chihiro and Nakajima have suffered loss in their lives. Both are now motherless and their early family life left something to be desired. But, as they begin seeing more of each other, Chihiro learns that Nakajima has dealt with some incredibly painful things; things that she herself can not begin to understand.
    Nakajima is different and unlike anyone that she has ever met before. She has fallen in love with him before she even realizes it for herself and she reflects on when she realized it, and what made her love him. Of course, one of the things the reader wants to know most is, what happened to Nakajima? And although we don't find out until the very end, it is worth the wait.

    The layout of this book was a little different that I'm used to. It has no chapters, but everything flows together pretty well. Sometimes when things are translated, you lost some things somewhere in between, but I didn't see that happen here. There were some passages that were so moving and so poignant that I re-read them several times. This is a novel about love, but not in the traditional sense. It's a lot deeper than I expected it to be, which is always a nice surprise. She has a minimalist style of writing, which makes it easier for certain things to come through, and you don't get lost as easily.

    I really liked this book. I thank Melville House for sending me this, and giving me the opportunity to read this. Its a short read, but very powerful and wonderful. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys minimalist literary works. I give this book a 4.25 out of 5!

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  • Posted August 12, 2011

    Painfully boring

    Pointless, dry, boring. Waste of my time and money. I have no idea where all the rave reviews came from - I bought based on the reviews but now I just wish I could get my money back. Seriously a terrible book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Perfect minimalism

    I loved this book. I read it with a sense of breathlessness as each sentence drew me into the quiet rhythm of the next. Yoshimoto has an almost ethereal way of writing, of explaining things in spirals. Reading it feels like a dance.

    I love it when a writer can lead me into a place so different from my own, and in ever widening circles, explain it. I think Banana Yoshimoto does this. It is deceptively simple, it is Japanese, it is reserved and passionate. I highly recommend The Lake, but be aware that you are walking into a different kind of story telling.

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  • Posted July 6, 2011

    Fantastic book, beautifully written

    I loved this book. It lingers in my mind. I keep thinking about the ending, which was a surprise.

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  • Posted July 6, 2011

    Dark, mysterious book about love in the wake of extreme trauma

    I've read one other Banana Yoshimoto book and this is perhaps my favorite. It's different from Kitchen in that there is something almost mystical and eerie about it. You still get everything you want: her offbeat characters and clean, precise writing. It's just that in this book there is a disturbing backdrop of dark secrets, hidden lives and though these things are unsettling they set the stage for a unconventional love story that you won't soon forget. Interesting read to say the least.

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  • Posted June 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Imaginations Review of The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto

    Alright..this is another review I have been dreading, truthfully because I don't have a lot to say. And it's hard, because I hate when that happens. I feel like I'm doing the author a disservice. But here's the thing. This was a fairly short novel and to me it read more like a short story. Which would have been fine if I had been prepared for that going in. But I wasn't. This also the first Yoshimoto I have ever read and I did like it, but not as much as I thought I would. I'm going to try and articulate why.

    I like a certain amount of detail in my reading and I felt like that was lacking in The Lake. There were hardly any place descriptions and it was very hard to picture exactly what was going on. I know that doesn't matter to some people, but it matters to me.

    I also felt that there was an emotional disconnect. I didn't particularly care what happened to the characters, especially Nikajima, who I think the author intended me to have a lot of sympathy for. I just felt a complete lack of emotion for anything that was going on, and I found that to be a shame because the story had a great deal of potential.

    The idea of the plot and the summary of the story really drew me in and was what initially made me want to read the book. It sounded a bit scary and mysterious. Plus the cover is absolutely mesmerizing. I wish it had been as good as i thought it was going to be.

    The reason why I gave it three stars? I really enjoyed the writing style. I just wish it had been a little more detailed. She really does write beautifully. It's a very simple writing style, but manages to be quite poetic. And like I said, I really loved the plotline. I just feel the story would have been so much more if I felt emotionally invested in the characters, even if it was just a little bit.

    I am very interested in reading another Banana Yoshimoto though, and I have added a few of her books to my TBR list. Maybe I will have better luck with another book. I hope so, because I really appreciate what she was trying to do here.

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  • Posted June 7, 2011

    Eh

    Not for me

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 18, 2011

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    Posted March 19, 2012

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    Posted July 6, 2011

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    Posted July 23, 2011

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