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
"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.
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
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 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