I have decided that Banana Yoshimoto is my new favourite living author. And no, not just because she writes under the name ‘Banana’, although that is pretty cool. It is because her books are absolutely and incredibly amazing. Fear not, Kazou Ishiguro and Diane Setterfield; I still love you both, but Banana Yoshimoto is simply soaring up into the heights of my absolute favourite authors ever, joining Jane Austen, Anthony Powell and good old Charles Dickens.
I read and reviewed her two novellas, ‘Kitchen’ and ‘Moonlight Shadow’ back in February, and read her short story collection Asleep last month. I’ve now just finished her novel Goodbye Tsugumi, and it so, so good. It tells the story of Maria, a nineteen-year-old student, and her relationship with her cousin, the vicious, self-centred and constantly ill Tsugumi. Maria returns from university in Tokyo to the seaside inn where she grew up, to spend one last summer with Tusugmi and her sister Yōko. Tsugumi’s frail and constantly fluctuating state of health casts a shadow over the story, but it’s more a novel about growing up and about friendship.