I received a copy of Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto as part of a recent Reddit gift exchange. Before then I’d never heard of the author; I’m sure I’d remember a name like Banana.
Asleep is split into three short stories. Each of which features a young girl as the stories main character.
Night & Night’s Travelers
Shibami shares a close relationship with both her brother and cousin. Her brother, Yoshihiro falls in love with an American girl and moves to Boston. During which, her cousin, Mari, realises that she is in love with Yoshihiro. When he returns from America, he and Mari become lovers until his sudden death.
Fumi is an alcoholic. She hears strange noises at night and remembers the face of Haru, a woman she lived with when they were both lovers of the same man. She slowly comes to realise that she loved this Haru, and when she learns of her death, she seeks help from a clairvoyant to contact her.
Terako, a woman who’s having an affair with a man whose wife is in a coma, losses her best friend Shiori after her suicide. She starts to feel isolated until she meets with the spirit of her lover’s wife.
Asleep Book Review
The book consists of three short stories, all following similar themes; two young girls, love, death, and a hint of lesbianism.
I won’t go into too much detail with each individual story as I’d prefer to talk about the book as a whole.'If someone could give me some sort of evidence that what we're doing is really love, I'd be so tremendously relieved...' - Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto Click To Tweet
When I began reading I was worried that the book was going to be aimed at a Young Adult audience, which definitely isn’t my style. However, with the eminent theme of death things started to change, laying out a heavier approach. That sounds so depressing, doesn’t it? Psychologically the book, or should I say, the stories, do a good job of bringing you into their own worlds and keeping you in suspense long enough to keep you reading, but that is where the joys end.
The prose is fluid and dreamy, although not to the standard of Murakami. (Is this an unfair comparison? Am I only doing so because they hail from the same country?) You get a true sense of the snowy winters and the scorching summers throughout, however, there are many attempts at a connection between reader and author that often fail to meet the mark. This leaves the characters flat and unstructured.
The flow of the stories is easy to contend with and as they’re all around 80 pages, there is no wasted time. This helps with the overall pacing and makes going back to the book easy once you’ve put it down.
One of the major flaws is that all three stories don’t really have a finish point but just end, which when read in succession can become tiresome.
Closing Thoughts on Asleep
A dreamy poetic feeling in sheer contrast to the bleak lives of our protagonists creates a fun world that unfortunately falls a little flat towards the mid-point. Dialogue is at times thin and sense is sometimes thrown to the side leaving the plots lacklustre. I’d consider reading another of Banana Yoshimoto’s books, probably Kitchen, if only for the poetic joy that her style it brings.
Have you read Asleep, or any other Banana Yoshimoto books? I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.