Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Goodbye Tsugumi" by Banana Yoshimoto- Sunday Salon

I am simply crazy about my second book for Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge. Goodbye Tsugumi by
Banana Yoshimoto (1989, translated by Michael Freeman 2002, 186 pages) started a little slow for me but by the time this story was nearing its ending I was wishing it was 1000 pages long so I would not be cut off from the world Banana Yoshimoto created with such economy. I was drawn very deeply into the lives of the lead characters, two female teenage cousins whose lives center around a small town inn outside of Tokyo. The title character Tsugumi is 18, her cousin and narrator of the story Maria is 19 and Yoko the sister of Tsugumi is 20. The parents of Tsugumi own the Inn. Marie's is the only child of a single mother.

Tsugumi has a serious illness and a personality that grates on most people at first. At first I did not like her but
by the time of her action scene that I am sure will amaze all readers I was cheering so much for her. Goodbye Tsugumi contains a lot of themes. It is a story of sibling and family conflict. It is a coming of age story of the two cousins. It is a love story. It is a tale of a revenge so sweet you will howl with delight even as you are shocked by what happens. The novel gives you an intimate look at life in a small town Japanese Inn trying to compete with hotels run by giant corporations. It is a story of the pull of the big city and the shadow it casts.

There are some wonderful descriptive phrases of nature throughout the book.

"I get the feeling that in towns near the sea the rain falls in a more lonely fashion than in other places"

"It's a marvelous thing, the ocean. For some reason when two people sit together next to it, they stop caring whether they talk or stay silent".

Here is an observation that to me echoed my first book for the Japanese Challenge After Dark by Haruki Murakami:
"Night time turns people into friends in next to no time"

Both Maria and Tsugumi read a lot. Maria tells us "She was always reading books about all kind of things, she knew a lot".

We are shown how books read long ago can create bonds.

" ''You remember that book Heidi we read when we were kids. I feel kinda like that friend of hers with the bad leg.'
Tsugumi chuckled sheepishly."

It is not labored over in the novel, nothing is, but we can see Maria and her cousin both read a very lot. They read to learn, to pass the time and because they enjoy it. They are raised in a tradition that respects the written word. this reading echos in Maria's observations on nature and in the characters reading of each other.

I really enjoyed Goodbye Tsugumi and I flat out loved the last twenty pages. I hope a lot of others will read this book so I can see their reactions. Banana Yoshimoto has five other works translated into English and I will read them all. My next book for the Japanese Challenge will be Real World by Natsuko Kirino.

Mel u
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Table Talk said...

This is a new one to me. Thank you for pointing me in its direction.

Mel u said...

Table Talk, I hope you will read this book as I would love to see your reaction to it.

Mark David said...

Nice review Mel! You make me want to pick up this one from the bookstore as well :)

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I'm wondering why I didn't sign up for the Japanese Challenge. It is my kind of challenge. Perhaps I will check it out.

Suko said...

I love this quote about the ocean, and would get a copy of Goodbye Tsugumi on the basis of that quote and your great review.

Anonymous said...

Mel, I've read Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, but not this one. However, your glowing review makes one want to pick it up right away! I am already intrigued about the revenge aspect you gave us a hint about...I'm so happy that this challenge is exciting you, and in turn, feeding others' excitement. (Like mine!)

Mel u said...

Mark-I will be at the Mall of Asia mid Sept for the Manila International Book Fair and will buy more of her books there

Debnance-glad you joined the Challenge and looking forward to your reviews

Suko-the book has a lot of wonderful sentences like the one about the ocean. I am adding Banana Yoshimoto to my "read every novel by" list

Dolcebellezza-The Japanese Challenge is very exciting to me-I am already started my 3rd book for it, "Real Life"

engelsigh said...

Sounds interesting. I will have eto look into this book.

Michelle said...

I've never read any of Banana Yoshimoto's books before, and your review makes me want to start right this minute! I especially like the couple of quotes you picked out of the book, and I can feel that it's the kind of writing that I would enjoy very much.

Mel u said...

Rasberryswrlgirl-I really hope you read "Goodbye Tsugumi" as I would love to see your reaction to the book

Michelle-I also hope you will read the book for the same reasons!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

What a nice review. Another book for my list. Thanks

JoAnn said...

This sounds wonderful, Mel! I'm not familiar with the author, but I will look for this one. Thanks for the review.

Mel u said...

Diane and JoAnn-I really hope you will both read this book as I would love to read your review of it

Paperback Reader said...

This sounds great! I love the Heidi reference and that the characters enjoy reading.
I have Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto for the challenge and have read Kitchen previously.
I'm looking forward to your review of Real World; I'm going to read Out.
I love the Japanese Literature challenge!

Crafty Green Poet said...

I really enjoyed Kitchen and Amrita and I totally love Hardboiled Hard Luck so I'll look out for this one too.

Suko said...

I am so excited! I ordered Goodbye Tsugumi today and will review it for Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge!

Mel u said...

Paperback Reader-I have Out and hope to read it by Oct 31-thanks as always for your comments

Crafty Green Poet-I hope also to read more Yoshimoto books this year-maybe starting with Hardboiled Hard Luck

Suko-I hope you like the book and will await your review of it-Like Real World it deals with Teenagers

Anonymous said...

Hi, is this book available in Philippines? Where can i buy it? Thanks

Mel u said...

Anoynmous I bought it at a National Book Store Branch