N.P. – Banana Yoshimoto

September 27, 2009 § 3 Comments


From the moment we met, I was a butterfly that flew into that space that was his soul, a room where the light had begun to dim. Although he may have regarded me as a welcome distraction, in fact, my presence only confused him more because I introduced flashes of daylight into his darkness.

In many ways, this book is very different from many others that I’ve read so far. Much like the main character of this story, I felt like, as a reader, I was invading a space which is not my own. And though interesting the space may be, at times I would get confused about where everything was leading me, I was left in the dark with no inkling as to what might happen next.

In a nutshell, the story as it is printed on the inside of the cover:

A celebrated Japanese writer has committed suicide, leaving behind a collection of stories written in English, N.P. But the book may never be published in his native Japan: Each translator who takes up the ninety-eighth story chooses death too — including Kazami Kano’s boyfriend, Shoji. Haunted by Shoji’s death, Kazami is inexorably drawn to three young people whose lives are intimately bound to the late writer and his work. Over the course of an astonishing summer, she will discover the truth behind the ninety-eighth story — and she will come to believe that “everything that had happened was shockingly beautiful, enough to make you crazy”.

Personally, I don’t think this blurb does much justice for the story. The plot is much more complex than what it seems, and it appears to me also that the meaning behind the way the story is laid out runs deeper than what can be perceived from a first read.

There is a certain beauty to the simplicity of the language that she uses in the book. Her phrases are short, her scenes relatively easy to follow. Having said that, her style is not my favourite. In fact, perhaps her style of writing made the book less enjoyable for me than if it were written in a
different mood and manner.

A lot of the time, I wish she would let me know more about the characters in the story, Sui in particular. This woman is so much a mystery, even now, I wish I could have known her better. The other characters within the story were also interesting individuals, but all the same, I wish she could have explored them a little more. So many things were left vague and without any real connection.

In the end, I felt like I was the butterfly, fluttering around in a story I couldn’t really connect to. I kept reading because I wanted to know more, but the moment when my curiosity was satisfied or enhanced just never came. It remained quite flat for me throughout, with no real peak or excitement.

Somehow, I wish I had enjoyed this book more.

Rating: 3

§ 3 Responses to N.P. – Banana Yoshimoto

  • Bellezza says:

    I wasn’t aware of this work by Banana, so it was interesting to read your review. I hate it when I can’t connect to the characters! It’s one thing to give up plot, but I won’t sacrifice a relationship with the characters and call a book excellent. I wonder if Banana’s young age has more to do with her lack of developing them than anything else because I found that somewhat true of Kitchen as well.

  • su says:

    @ Bellezza: I picked up this book by Yoshimoto precisely because I’ve not seen it anywhere before! And it is such a small book, I thought it would be a good idea to start reading her work starting with a less demanding book. Turns out it was quite complex.

    But yes, I agree with you that the connection with characters is of utmost importance. More often than not, a story’s strength lies in how well the reader knows the characters.

    I have yet to read Kitchen, so I might like to give it a try some time.

  • librini says:

    I do not like her writing style but I must read it again for my reading group. I hope to enjoy it more, this time….

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