Review: The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto

The Lake 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, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, 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 religious cult.


The Lake is the type of story where it grows on you gradually as you’re reading it, but not a great deal, and then continues to grow on you after you’ve finished it. It’s as if the emotions that were struck whilst reading it are barely touched upon and then afterwards they’re given leave to deepen.

This is the first work I’ve read by Banana Yoshimoto, but I’ve heard of her before and have always wondered what it was about this author that intrigued people so much. The Lake is written in a minimalist format, in that there isn’t a great deal of description when it comes to surroundings or any substantial amount of detail shared of the external in regards to the characters. This style of writing gives the reader an opportunity to let their own imagination expand with minimal boundary while also giving a far deeper insight into character emotions and philosophies.

I found the story to be an interesting read since it’s got a sort of monotone to it, with both the character’s narration and the events in the tale, something of which could be boring and yet there’s something about the story that kept me going.

There isn’t much obstacle going on during the story. You’ve got to admit that the majority of stories created follow a certain formula and difficulties are introduced to throw the characters off, creating some drama and in turn feeding our desire to continue on with the story. In The Lake, what obstacles arise doesn’t cause much, if any, friction at all. It gives the feeling of the journey towards a solution being a fairly smooth one without any true bumps in the road. This doesn’t help give the characters good deal of dimension, in fact they barely stand out from each other, but there’s a factor to Yoshimoto’s writing style where you can’t quite give up on reading and following the story through to the end.

The Lake is more about grief and where a person is at certain times, than anything else, and I found it one of those novels that sweeps you along, is hard to put down, and something of which you shouldn’t go in expecting anything in particular.

  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction
  • Demographic: Adult
  • Rating Out of Five: 4
  • Format: eBook from NetGalley
  • Find At: The Book Depository
  • Published: 2nd of May, 2011

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