The Lake

“The Lake” by Banana Yoshimoto (Japan)


Mystical and mysterious were some of the words readers used to describe this book that they thoroughly enjoyed. Most were familiar with the author having read other of her books and they liked her writing style, which they found captured the atmosphere well. They were drawn to the two protagonists feeling a mixture of sympathy and interest for their personal journeys. Although some readers thought that the story dragged a little halfway through, they kept going as they were curious enough to find out what would happen. There was some criticism concerning the translation as it gave the voices certain American overtones and one reader felt that it made the female protagonist sound blasé and nonchalant at times. Readers liked the ending, which they said gave them hope for a positive outcome for the couple’s future. Overall, it averaged a 7.9 out of 10.


While “The Lake” shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous – a small cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace – it’s also one of the most darkly mystifying books she’s ever written. It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though… until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.

They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, and she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a reclusive life beside a beautiful lake in the countryside, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre sect. As the two young lovers begin to overcome their troubled pasts, “The Lake” unfolds as the most powerful and moving novel Banana Yoshimoto has written.

Nicola’s Book Club reading list 

Season 17 – “The Human Condition” (Feb – Jun 2013) 

“Hustle” by Will Ferguson (Canada) *
“The Gaze” by Elif Shafak (Turkey)
“Goodbye Lucille” by Segun Afolabi (Nigeria)
“The Lake” by Banana Yoshimoto (Japan)
“The Sickness” by Alberto Barrera Tyszka (Venezuela) 

* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur

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