Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto — book review


“This story you’re reading contains my memories of the final visit I made to the seaside town where I passed my childhood—of my last summer at home.”

Goodbye Tsugumi is the quintessence of Yoshimoto. Written in her quietly poetic prose Goodbye Tsugumi is a novel that is light on the plot. Yoshimoto introduces us to her characters without preamble, offering little in terms of backstory, yet she’s quick to establish the dynamic between Maria and her capricious best friend Tsugumi. Maria’s feelings are rendered in a language that is both simple and lyrical, as Yoshimoto often juxtaposes Maria’s inner thoughts with ordinary details of her environment. Yoshimoto is particularly attuned to nature, noting the smell of the sea, raindrops, the sand. She truly conjures up Maria’s “little fishing town”, almost giving it an ethereal quality.
The friendship between Maria and Tsugumi is the focus of this short novel. In spite of their contrasting personalities, the bond between the two runs deep. Tsugumi’s prickliness stems partly from her frustration towards the mysterious malady she suffers from. Maria, who’s going to a university in Tokyo, decides to spend her summer with Tsugumi’s in her beloved village. Yoshimoto captures with clarity Maria’s impressions and feelings, vividly rendering this particular phase of her life.
An atmosphere of nostalgia envelops Maria and Tsugumi’s story, making certain scenes particularly bittersweet.
However much I liked Yoshimoto’s prose, I can’t say that I particularly cared for Tsugumi. Her capricious nature was at times excused by her condition, which is fair enough but doesn’t really give her the right to be cruel or rude.
Still, this makes for a breezy read, and fans of Yoshimoto will most likely enjoy this.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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