Tag Archives: Banana Yashimoto

Recent reads # 17: GOODBYE JAPAN!


Amrita – Banana Yashimoto

Okay: I’m now done with Japanese novels, at least for the time being.  I’m all Japanned out.  I bought this book on the Book Lounge 40% off-sale, and was peeved to discover that the book was second hand – & if not second hand, then very very old stock,  because the pages have browned, the way that old books do.  I have a feeling that this novel was the personal possession of someone on the store staff.  Or something.  Anyway: not one of my better buys. Which serves me right, because bought it on a 100% whim, based on the writer’s crazy name; also I was also curious to read another Japanese novel, after two from Haruki Murakami.  And having read Banana, I now realise just how good Murakami is.  Also the translation on the Amrita novel was not so great.  I had the impression of a very limited vocabulary – whether this was a fault of the writer or the translator, I couldn’t say.

I had to work really hard to force myself to finish the book – it was a struggle.  Partly because the plot (what plot?) wasn’t very interesting, or at least, wasn’t presented in a way that engaged my interest or made me identify with the characters.  We’re in Tokyo, modern Japan, looking at  an unusual family, Mother, daughter Sakumi the narrator, her step-brother Yoshisho, her cousin Makiko and a  lady friend of the mother, called Junko who decided to live with them. Sakumi falls down some stairs, has brain surgery and returns home, but without her memory; the brother has psychic powers and is moody & withdrawn; Sakumi takes up with Ryu-kan who is the former  lover of her sister Maki who committed suicide; now that I summarise the book it looks quite interesting, but it was presented in such a manner that it wasn’t! Nothing much happens, but we hear a lot about Sakumi’s dreams, and the spirit world (i.e. ghosts) the whole thing reminded me of a self-absorbed teenaged girl’s journal that endlessly describes her FEELINGS, dreams, fantasies. But no details whatsoever about her sexual encounters, although  we do know she’s sleeping with Ryu-kan,  and there’s a sub-plot about her friend Eriko who’s a married man’s mistress and gets stabbed by his aggravated wife – but even this crime doesn’t come across as remarkable

The blurb said “novel is the voice of young Japan”. Well, judging by this novel,  young Japan is not very interesting. The characters all seem to drink a lot, and be fond of staying up all night, wafting around. Quite often we get to hear what they eat – Murakami’s novels  are also very explicit re the menus.

And why it was titled Amrita I’m not sure, although near the end Sakumi has an experience of Amrita, the divine nectar (this is a reference from Hindu mythology {??}  which has not been a feature thus far).

The novel left me stone cold and I can only hope it read better in the original Japanese.  I certainly won’t be trying any more of her books.


Filed under BOOK REVIEWS


I thought I’d haul the first ten books off the top of the pile that is lurking behind my shirts in my bedroom cupboard – it’s my guilty trove of books that I’ve bought on sales, succumbed to on-line temptations – what can I say? Other people are hooked on booze and nicotine, I’m hooked on books.

  • Amrita – Banana Yoshimoto : I just couldn’t resist her name and it was a sale book, plus I’m in a Japanese novel phase
  • Double Negative – Ivan Vladislavic: Despite his name, a South African novelist with Yugoslav origins; he’s so good he makes me breathless; both his talent and his lovely blue eyes ….
  • Pulphead John Jeremiah Sullivan : much lauded American essayist; I wanted to find out what the fuss was about
  • How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive Christopher Boucher: there’s crazy, & then there’s this writer. I read the first 50 pages, and thoroughly bemused, put it back on the pile; I need to dive into his special brand of lunacy again, and swim bravely for the shore
  • Saraswati Park Anjali Joseph; an Indian novel, a debut; I love Indian novels, for the colour, the characters, the foreignness
  • Game Control – Lionel Shriver: can’t wait to see what this powerful novelist does with modern Africa
  • In the Company of Cheerful Ladies – Alexander McCall Smith: I always enjoy his books on Africa; he’s an instant tonic
  • The Savage Detectives Roberto  Bolano: I keep reading rave reviews about this Mexican writer and want to give him a try
  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother Amy Chua: the famous/infamous Chinese/American mum with the Boot Camp approach to child rearing. Again – I’m curious
  • Alan Sugar What you see is what you get: Rough diamond industrialist, British peer, cracker of whips on the British version of The Apprentice: I was mightily diverted by him on TV and interested to learn what makes him tick

Now if only I had more time to read, I could get stuck into some of these prospective treats.  Watch this space.


Filed under BOOK REVIEWS