I’m generally a fan of contemporary Japanese fiction. I’ve read and liked a few of Ryu Murakami‘s novels, and Haruki Murakami is one of my very favorite authors. A few years ago, I read Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, and I generally liked that one, too. That said, Yoshimoto’s The Lake is a total waste of time. The only novels I’ve read this year and actively disliked are Things Fall Apart and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The Lake is fluff fiction with some of the latter novel’s annoying-as-hell preachiness. Generally, my rule is that if, 50 pages in, nothing interesting is going on, I can scrap it. This one was so short that I didn’t. I figured something interesting was bound to happen. I was totally wrong.
The Lake is about a girl whose mother has recently died. She lives alone in a big city in Japan, and she’s lonely. She meets the guy whose window faces her from across the street, and they begin dating. He moves in. She’s not sure what it is, but there’s something wrong with him. He’s damaged in some way. He asks her to go with him to see two of his old friends who live near a lake, and she agrees to go. They arrive at a little cabin occupied by one nice guy and his bedridden sister. The friend puts his hand on his sister’s head, and she speaks through him. Fine. So the couple goes back to the city. Long story short, it turns out that (spoiler!) the boyfriend had been kidnapped and brainwashed by a cult when he was a kid, and he has problems forming relationships. The End.
This book was a total waste of time. I read it quickly simply because I wanted it to be over. The translation is terrible, too. Here’s an actual sentence:
Stacks of incomprehensible books about biochemistry and genetic engineering and so on would be stacked up next to him, their pages marked with Post-its.
Really? Mr. Translator, couldn’t you have tried just a little harder?
I’m glad I didn’t waste too much time on this one. I’ll move on to something more interesting, though I’m not sure what that is, yet. Shouldn’t be hard to find: I do work in a library, after all.