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Hardboiled Hard Luck

The benefit of reading a long list of book recommendation such as 1001 books you must read before you die is to stumble upon weird author’s names or book titles that you remembered vaguely being discussed in book blogs or reviews.The name Banana Yoshimoto is one such.

This book contains two novellas. The first one is about a woman who is out walking, passes a strange shrine, checks into a weird hotel. The woman state of mind vacillates between reality and in her dreams and reminisces about her female friend and lover who died a year ago.  

As fond as I was of her, I wasn’t confident that I could love her enough to stay with her, to go on filling the dark, lonely space she carried within her. I knew that someday I would fall in love with a man, and what I could do to her then would be even worse. So I didn’t call her.

The second one is about a woman and her relationship with her sister, Kuni, who is in coma. Kuni’s fiancé leaves her after the incident, but his brother, Sakai (A tai-chi teacher) continues to visit. About the sorrow and waiting for imminent prospect of death that surrounds you when a close one dies.

I have always found it relatively easy to keep my emotions in check. I stop being able to savour, even in the secret recesses of my own mind. Kuni used to say that if I was able to do that, I could really be very deeply in love.When you’re in love, she once said, it really hurts, it aches, and you can’t suppress it, you want to see it through to the end even if it means that someone has to die, and so you end up causing a whole lot of trouble for everyone.  

I was once like that, when I was younger. But I no longer want to go back there, that emotional state. What an awful way to live! 

Both stories have young female narratives and they are quite similar, living in the shadow of another woman whom they admire. At the same time they are trying to come to terms with their own identities and their future path in life. I particularly like the second story, as Yoshimoto intricately dealt with the dread of death sensitively and beautifully.  

I agree. I’m sure things will never be harder than they are now. My mother doesn’t really have a cold, you know – she’s just feeling really down. But I know that sometime in the future, a day will come when my family will start to feel differently. The world out there, this landscape we’re looking at now, through this window, will start to seem good to us, and different from the way it is not – so different that we aren’t even allowed to imagine it yet. It’s just that I’m tired of waiting. Because n the early days, I was always waiting for a miracle.

 And that a day would come when people and their brains would each die a separate death. 

Death isn’t sad. What hurts is being drowned by these emotions. 

 Rating: 3/5

Her prose is sparse, but the meaning is not. When I picked this book off the shelf, I’m not sure if it’s the one listed in 1001 books. But since it’s isn’t, at some point I will read “Kitchen” soon. All her books are stuff that you can read in one sitting. No sweat. 

I am reading this for A to Z challenge.

Paperback. Publisher: Faber and Faber 2005; Length: 149 pages; Setting: Contemporary Japan. Source: Library Loot. Finished reading at: 27 March 2010

About the Writer:

Banana Yoshimoto (よしもと ばなな, Yoshimoto Banana) (born July 24, 1964, in Tokyo) is the pen name of Mahoko Yoshimoto (吉本 真秀子 Yoshimoto Mahoko), a Japanese contemporary writer. She graduated from Nihon University’s Art College, majoring in Literature. During that time, she took the pseudonym “Banana” after her love of banana flowers, a name she recognizes as both “cute” and “purposefully androgynous.

About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


7 thoughts on “Hardboiled Hard Luck

  1. I’ve only read Kitchen by Banana, but I loved it. Thanks for telling me about this work of hers! I find her writing to be so piercing, at least Kitchen was…so sad, but worthy.

    Posted by Bellezza | March 31, 2010, 1:19 pm
  2. I’ve read two books by her now (Kitchen and this one) and loved them both! Next I want to read Goodbye Tsugumi.

    Posted by Eva | April 5, 2010, 8:36 am


  1. Pingback: Library Loot: April 7-13, 2010 « Bibliojunkie - April 7, 2010

  2. Pingback: Kitchen and Goodbye Tsugumi « Bibliojunkie - April 23, 2010

  3. Pingback: The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto « JoV's Book Pyramid - January 29, 2013

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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