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Book Review: The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto

13 Jul

Genre: Literary fiction, Contemporary fiction

Publisher: Melville House Publishing

Pub date: 2 May 2011

Source: Publisher via NetGalley



Chihiro and Nakajima are in a rather tentative relationship. They enjoy spending time with each other, but it is obvious that Nakajima has some big hurt in his past which still affects him. Chihiro is an artist who also comes from an unconventional family. When her mother dies, she uproots herself from the town in which she grew up and moves to Tokyo. When she meets Nakajima, both their lives start change subtly.


I’ve read Banana Yoshimoto before. I loved the atmosphere and peek into contemporary life in Japan, but I think I was perhaps too young to appreciate the minimalistic writing and the character heavy stories, where plot does not take centre stage.

The Lake is an emotional journey, dark and filled with hurt and confusion. While there is a secret, it is the relationship between Chihiro and Nakajima and their private emotional journeys that we get to see in detail. Both Chihiro and Nakajima have had unusual childhoods. But in Nakajima’s case, there is some trauma that has left him feeling ephemeral and time and again, Chihiro gets that feeling that he could easily disappear.

Feeling restless and mourning her mother’s death, Chihiro spends hours staring out her window when she notices Nakajima at his. Soon they start spending time together and can’t think of their days without each other. While Chihiro is glad to live in the moment, she can’t help but wonder what happened to Nakajima to make him so fragile. When they take a trip to the lake and meet some of Nakajima’s old friends, the pieces start to fall in place and Chihiro understands Nakajima much better.

Yoshimoto explores concepts of loneliness, grief, and asks if we can ever overcome the trauma of childhood. From darkness and trauma, the story moves to a place of hope and possibilities.

Recommend for those who enjoy character-driven stories. This one has a secret which also makes it filled with a dark suspense that made my time with the story more involved.

Rating: 4*

*See my Rating policy

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