Jenny Danes on "Kitchen" by Banana Yoshimoto

Posted 29 Jan 2018 by Writing Squad in Writing Squad Reviews

This post is the second in a series by members of the Writing Squad, which provides support to writers in the North aged 16 to 21

Kitchen"Even before you’ve opened it, Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto is surely one of the most satisfying books to hold. Assuming you read the 2001 Faber edition, it’s small and very bright, and makes you want to carry it around with you. There’s a lovely preface by the author where she talks about having ‘something I wanted to say in a novel, and I wanted, no matter what it took, to continue writing until I got the saying of it out of my system’. And that’s what it feels like. It does somehow seem like the book has come from quite a meaningful and considered place.

Kitchen is comprised of two novellas. The second and shorter of the two, Moonlight Shadow, I’ve never quite got on with as much. But the first, just called Kitchen, is incredibly special.

Kitchen is about loss and healing. Its protagonist, Mikage, loses the last member of her family when her grandmother dies, and finds herself adrift and grieving. She is taken in by sunny Yuichi and his transgender mother Eriko, and together they try and make their way through life in modern Tokyo.

Kitchen is also a bit of a hymn to the joy of small things. There are many passages with beautiful appreciation for good food, plants, comfortable sofas, and, of course, kitchens. Yoshimoto has a strangely charming writing style which you encounter right from the opening page:

‘The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it’s a kitchen, if it’s a place where they make food, it’s fine with me. Ideally it should be well broken in. Lots of tea towels, dry and immaculate. White tile catching the light (ting! ting!). I love even incredibly dirty kitchens to distraction – vegetable droppings all over the floor, so dirty your slippers turn black on the bottom.’

My English teacher lent Kitchen to me when I was an unhappy seventeen-year-old, and I still love it now. If you or anyone you know is going through a rough patch, this book is my go-to remedy."

...

Jenny DanesJenny started writing poetry at sixth form college and was highly commended in the Bridport Prize in 2013 and again in 2016. In 2016 she won the inaugural New Poets Prize, and went on to publish her debut pamphlet ‘Gaps’ with smith|doorstop in July 2017.

Image courtesy of Laura Beresford Photography

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