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Kitchen is the first novel from Japanese author, Banana Yoshimoto. It features two novelettes, Kitchen (part 1) and Moonlight Shadow (Kitchen part 2). Both of the stories deal with themes of love, loss, kitchens and tea.
In the first story we meet a girl whose Grandmother has just died, leaving her bereft of a family. She is taken in by an acquaintance and his mother, and she grows to be part of the family. As she grows, she cooks, and the descriptions of the food are truly mouthwatering, leaving me wanting katsuko and barley tea.
In the second, we meet a girl whose boyfriend had died, and her struggle to deal with that bereavement and support his brother - and vice versa - is the main theme. Again, a lot of tea is drunk and a more loving description of a KFC burger I cannot imagine. My mouth was watering even as I felt for the poor girl.
They are everyday stories, stories which everyone will recognise, but what makes them special is the force of the imagery used. I had to laugh at one point where the protagonist is told she sounds like she's saying something translated from English. I've never been to Japan, but somehow, I could picture the scene, feel the atmosphere.