I was really excited to learn there was going to be a new English translation of a Banana Yoshimoto novel and doubly so when I received a copy to review. Kitchen and Goodbye, Tsugumi are two of the first novels I read in Japanese as a teen. I like Yoshimoto’s simple and sparse style. It isn’t over-complicated even though the themes she addressed were.

The Lake once again covers familiar grounds. It’s more about the inner life of people rather than the external, although in this novel, it has a huge bearing on the characters. Chihiro is a young artist who has lost her mother, who owned a bar, and is estranged from her father, a respected small town businessman. She has managed to escape from her town to study art and live in Tokyo. She soon begins to notice a tall, thin boy who lives in a flat across from hers. As their friendship blossoms into love, Chihiro realises that Nobu hides a childhood trauma that may break their fragile relationship.

It’s interesting how Yoshimoto always seems to focus on the shattered pieces of the past. Her characters are flawed and hurting but ultimately help each other. There is no perfect adult who hasn’t seen their share of pain. In this novel, Chihiro is not only running away from small town social conventions, but also the stigma of illegitimacy, even though her parents had a warm and loving relationship. Nobu, on the other hand, has experienced severe childhood trauma, and with echoes of the notorious Aum Shinrikyo cult, he is not only looking for someone to help him, but to also give him the confidence that he can function as a normal human being.

One of the things I always find interesting when reading Japanese novels is how the notion of freedom from social conventions for women always results in them being a ‘mama-san’ who owns a bar. In turn giving them financial freedom, it also stigmatises them as they work entertaining clients outside of normal working hours. In some ways I can see how this is exciting material for novelists as the notion of freedom starts to become a lot more complex. It also brings in the class division between the working class and the elite which is still prevalent in Japan today. Just a thought.

Ultimately, I felt this novel only skimmed the surface of what is a disturbing yet fascinating look into how people cope with complex issues. I really like Yoshimoto’s style which is clean and sparse and gently takes you along the journey, yet I also felt at the same time that it was too simple and lacked a certain beauty. I couldn’t really sympathise or understand Chihiro’s thoughts and the story seemed to ramble a little. In some ways, The Lake may have benefited with more editing, although I also wanted Yoshimoto to explore Chihiro and Nobu’s relationship more fully.

However, Yoshimoto does touch on some interesting points and The Lake also reminded me a little of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, although the latter felt more complete and discussed the themes more fully.

All in all, I found The Lake to be an easy read, and you do want to find out exactly what Nobu had gone through. But it did fall a little short of my expectations, which were extremely high. However, don’t let this put you off reading The Lake. There’s still something about the atmosphere Yoshimoto creates which will linger on long after you finish the last page and makes you want to explore more of her writing.

I read this as part of Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge 5. Do also check out what Eva, lisa, Gavin and For Books’ Sake thought.

So, Melville House Publishing has kindly sent me a spare copy of The Lake to give away. If you would like a chance to win, please leave a comment and tell me which book divided your opinion but still would recommend to others and I will pick a winner (in some random manner) in a week’s time. Open worldwide.


Congratulations! I will post the books this weekend. Enjoy!

Thanks to everyone for your participation and comments. I found it difficult to pick a name out of my mug so I got my flatmate to do the honour this morning. Trying to keep it impartial as I wanted you all to win. There will be one more giveaway soon so keep your eyes peeled.

Terrible Twos

14 July, 2011

Not me, silly, but my blog. Yes, chasing bawa is TWO this year and I’m as shocked as you all that I’ve sustained my interest and enjoyment at this book blogging business. In fact, my interest hasn’t waned at all but has increased as I’ve made some wonderful friends and found some extremely well-written, funny and lovely blogs. The book blogging world is indeed a very genuine and warm one and I’m glad to be a part of it. So to celebrate I have a particularly brilliant giveaway, if I say so myself.

Feast your eyes on these:

Oh yes, it’s a Haruki Murakami twosome, kindly sent to me by my lovely friend Y all the way from Japan. One lucky winner will get a spanking new set of Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973 in English. As most of you will probably know, these are the first two of Murakami’s books to be translated into English and start the Trilogy of the Rat which culminates with A Wild Sheep Chase and later Dance, Dance, Dance both of which are available internationally.

With these, you are in fine form to join In Spring It Is The Dawn‘s Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge to celebrate the English release of 1Q84 (I cannot wait for this!) and also Dolce Bellezza‘s Japanese Literature Challenge 5, if you haven’t already. I haven’t read my copies yet and will be doing so for the two challenges. Very exciting! And you can read an interesting piece on why Murakami is so popular here.

I’m sad to hear that Kodansha International is no longer in business and both books are increasingly difficult to get hold of (although they are available on Amazon Japan), so I’m offering this twosome as a big THANK YOU to all of you who stop by, read and comment on my blog. I like comments but I like lurkers too!

So tell me which book you are most looking forward to read this summer and I’ll pick a winner in the old fashioned way (names in a mug) in a week’s time. And I’ll send it anywhere too. Good luck everyone!

* Thank you all for participating but the giveaway is now closed. *

There was a staggering number of participants for Leeswammes’ Blog‘s Literary Giveaway Blog Hop. Thank you all for participating and I do hope that you will go out and try Romesh Gunesekara’s novels even if you didn’t win this time. I was tempted to go on random.org, but decided that I liked drawing names the old-fashioned way (from my A Room of One’s Own Penguin mug no less).

And the winners are:



                                                                  Miss Lauren

Congratulations to both and e-mails have been sent!

The Literary Giveaway Blog Hop is organised by Leeswammes’ Blog and gives us all a chance to give away and win books between 25 – 29th June 2011. A win-win situation, I’d say. So do go and check out what other lovely treats are on offer. You can find a list of participants at the end of this post.

A month ago, I went to an English PEN event to hear one of my favourite Sri Lankan writers, Romesh Gunesekara, on a panel about festival boycotts. You can read about it here. I also came away with signed new paperback editions of his first novel Reef and my favourite The Match. You heard it, they’re SIGNED.

Reef was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1994 and is the tale of Triton, an 11 year old who goes to work as a houseboy for Mr. Salgado, a writer, in early 70s Sri Lanka. It’s a beautifully written tale of love, family and loss in a country undergoing rapid changes.

The Match is a bildungsroman about a young Sri Lankan boy growing up in the Phillipines and then settling in Britain. It’s a tale of identity and family as he recalls a cricket match played long ago in a distant country. I think it’s one of the best novels that captures life as an expat, building a home away from home, and reminded me of when I was a child living in Bangkok and surrounded by people from all around the world. Beautiful and my favourite Gunesekara novel.

So what are you waiting for? Leave me a comment saying which book you prefer or, if you want to try for both, in which order of preference. The giveaway will close at midnight (GMT) on Wednesday 29th June and I’ll pick two winners on the 30th. And I’ll send them anywhere too. Good luck everyone!

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop Participants:

  1. Leeswammes (Int)
  2. The Book Whisperer (Int)
  3. Kristi Loves Books (Int)
  4. Teadevotee (Int)
  5. Bookworm with a View (Int)
  6. Bibliosue (Int)
  7. Sarah Reads Too Much (Int)
  8. write meg! (USA)
  9. My Love Affair With Books (Int)
  10. Seaside Book Nook (Int)
  11. Uniflame Creates (Int)
  12. Always Cooking Up Something (Int)
  13. Book Journey (Int)
  14. ThirtyCreativeStudio (Int)
  15. Col Reads (Int)
  16. The Book Diva’s Reads (Int)
  17. The Scarlet Letter (USA)
  18. The Parrish Lantern (Int)
  19. Lizzy’s Literary Life (Int)
  20. Read, Write & Live (Int)
  21. Book’d Out (Int)
  22. The Readers’ Suite (Int)
  23. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (USA)
  24. Ephemeral Digest (Int)
  25. Miel et lait (Int)
  26. Bibliophile By the Sea (Int)
  27. Polychrome Interest (Int)
  28. Book World In My Head (Int)
  29. In Spring it is the Dawn (Int)
  30. everybookhasasoul (Int)
  31. Nishita’s Rants and Raves (Int)
  32. Fresh Ink Books (Int)
  33. Teach with Picture Books (USA)
  34. How to Teach a Novel (USA)
  35. The Blue Bookcase (Int)
  36. Gaskella (Int)
  37. Reflections from the Hinterland (USA)
  38. chasing bawa (Int)
  39. 51stories (Int)
  40. No Page Left Behind (USA)
  1. Silver’s Reviews (USA)
  2. Nose in a book (Int)
  3. Lit in the Last Frontier (Int)
  4. The Book Club Blog (Int)
  5. Under My Apple Tree (Int)
  6. Caribousmom (USA)
  7. breienineking (Netherlands)
  8. Let’s Go on a Picnic! (Int)
  9. Rikki’s Teleidoscope (Int)
  10. De Boekblogger (Netherlands)
  11. Knitting and Sundries (Int)
  12. Elle Lit (USA)
  13. Indie Reader Houston (Int)
  14. The Book Stop (Int)
  15. Eliza Does Very Little (Int)
  16. Joy’s Book Blog (Int)
  17. Lit Endeavors (USA)
  18. Roof Beam Reader (Int)
  19. The House of the Seven Tails (Int)
  20. Tony’s Reading List (Int)
  21. Sabrina @ Thinking About Loud! (Int)
  22. Rebecca Reads (Int)
  23. Kinna Reads (Int)
  24. In One Eye, Out the Other (USA)
  25. Books in the City (Int)
  26. Lucybird’s Book Blog (Europe)
  27. Book Clutter (USA)
  28. Exurbanis (Int)
  29. Lu’s Raves and Rants (USA & Canada)
  30. Sam Still Reading (Int)
  31. Dolce Bellezza (Int)
  32. Lena Sledge’s Blog…Books, Reviews and Interviews (Int)
  33. a Thousand Books with Quotes (Int)

Persephone Secret Santa

31 October, 2010

Just a reminder that the lovely Claire aka Paperback Reader is organising this year’s Persephone Secret Santa so head over to her blog to sign up before 5th November! Hurry!

I was disappointed I didn’t get around to joining last year so jumped at the chance this year. Plus it gives me an excuse to visit the bookshop again^^ Head over to Persephone Books to see what gorgeous books are on offer and check out their blog too. I’ve only read one and a half so far (yeah, I’m slow) but they’ve been brilliant. And so beautifully finished too.

Giveaway result!

22 July, 2010

Thank you all who commented and left some sweet messages. You’re all darlings.

I only realised yesterday that I didn’t specify that you needed to state a title (see, I told you I’m new at this!) so I assumed everyone who didn’t specifically say they wanted to opt out would like to be included in the draw.

So I picked a name out of my favourite Terry Pratchett mug (can you guess which book cover it is?) and the winner of the giveaway is:

Congratulations! Please e-mail the particulars to chasingbawa[at]gmail.com and I’ll send the book over straight away.

And I’ll leave you with this trailer of Gatchaman the movie which will be out in 2011. One of my favourite animes from my childhood, I didn’t actually know it’s name until a few years ago…