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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Goodbye Tsugumi

by
Yoshimoto Banana


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Goodbye Tsugumi



Title: Goodbye Tsugumi
Author: Yoshimoto Banana
Genre: Novel
Written: 1989 (Eng. 2002)
Length: 186 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Goodbye Tsugumi - US
Goodbye Tsugumi - UK
Goodbye Tsugumi - Canada
Goodbye Tsugumi - India
Tsugumi - Deutschland
Tsugumi - Italia
  • Japanese title: Tugumi
  • Translated by Michael Emmerich

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Our Assessment:

B : decent melancholy tale of growing up and parting

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Entertainment Weekly B+ 23/8/2002 Troy Patterson
The Guardian . 19/7/2003 David Jays
The Observer . 13/7/2003 Anita Sethi
San Francisco Chronicle . 11/8/2002 Jennie Yabroff
The Telegraph . 2/7/2003 Candida Clark


  From the Reviews:
  • "Despite the tiredness of the premise and the orchestrated tenderness of the plot, Yoshimoto (...) freshly conjures teenage growing pains, creating a vital portrait of a complicated friendship." - Troy Patterson, Entertainment Weekly

  • "Yoshimoto has a good line in teenage eye-roll, and Emmerich's translation blends Dawson's Creek sass and self-absorption with a kind of lyricism which creeps up on the characters." - David Jays, The Guardian

  • "In Emmerich's translation of this 1989 Japanese novel, the character's speech oscillates irritatingly between overdone poeticisms and American slang. But he evocatively traces the delicate images of Maria's nostalgia, which leave her 'heartsick'. Yoshimoto brilliantly creates a mood of departure, but the final goodbye in the form of a letter fails to satisfy, leaves you wishing for a different ending." - Anita Sethi, The Observer

  • "Like Yoshimoto's previous novels, Goodbye Tsugumi often seems artlessly constructed. The narrative voice is so candid and casual, it can seem like a diary entry or a stream of consciousness monologue. (...) But the light, careless tone is deceptive. Yoshimoto's words are considered, and each of them has the weight of a small, perfectly round stone dropped into a still pool." - Jennie Yabroff, San Francicsco Chronicle

  • "Saying "goodbye" to Tsugumi is also a way of saying goodbye to moods and moments particular to youth, and in rendering these the novel is exceptional." - Candida Clark, The Telegraph

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Goodbye Tsugumi is narrated by Maria Shirakawa, who grew up with her cousins Yōko and Tsugumi in a seaside resort where her aunt and uncle have an inn. Maria's parents were not married, and until her father could get a divorce from his first wife they couldn't live together; at the beginning of the novel the divorce finally comes through, and they can finally live together as a family -- but that means Maria and her mother move to Tokyo. Most of the novel then takes place in the summer, when Maria returns to the inn for one last summer: her aunt and uncle are also leaving it behind and moving at the end of the season.
       The three cousins are all almost the same age, on the cusp of adulthood:

You can say we're grown up and whatever else you like, but we're all still nineteen or thereabouts, huh ? We might as well be a bunch of brats on summer vacation.
       Tsugumi, the youngest, is also the brattiest. She is both very unpleasant -- the novel's opening sentence warns as much: "It's true: Tsugumi really was an unpleasant young woman" -- and sickly; indeed, she's always been very frail. She is also, however, very attractive -- and over the course of the summer falls for a new boy, Kyōichi, the son of the people who are building the large hotel that many of the locals are wary of.
       Tsugumi and Maria are also very close, and the separation -- from the town she grew up in, and the people she grew up with -- is difficult for Maria. Maria's father, thrilled to finally have the domestic bliss he always dreamed of, makes things easy for her -- but she still feels that occasional longing for the ocean and the easy camaraderie she shared with her cousins.
       Not too much happens over the course of the summer, though there are some real clouds, too -- and not only because Tsugumi's frailty suggests there might be some real finality to that final goodbye ..... Nevertheless, for the most part Maria's stay offers exactly that comfortable, easy-going experience of carefree childhood summers.
       Tsugumi, too, blossoms:
     All summer long, Tsugumi was just as lovely as she could be. Something inside her kept creating an endless number of these moments -- scenes when the whole world would have caught its breath at the sight of her, and stood staring, utterly enchanted.
       Goodbye Tsugumi is steeped in the melancholy of leaving childhood behind, but Yoshimoto doesn't present it as a break: just as Maria is allowed to return for the summer Yoshimoto's entire narrative moves ever so gently. There is some tragedy, but Yoshimoto makes even that bearable -- and draws back from any truly shattering change.
       Nostalgia is pervasive here, but in how Yoshimoto lets her characters explore how to adjust to it the story avoids becoming mere adolescent wallow; still, this is very much a young-adult novel, full of teen pining and reflection, and both Maria and Tsugumi seem and act considerably younger than their age.
       Yoshimoto's style is also compounded by the translation, which verges too often on the mystifying, as in:
     It wasn't narcissism. And it wasn't exactly an aesthetic. Deep down inside, Tsugumi had this perfectly polished mirror, and she only believed in the things she saw reflected there. She never even considered anything else.
       There is also the occasionally (but very noticeable) odd word choice, for example: the inn is at times referred to as a pension; perhaps understandable given the Japanese original (ペンション) (and perhaps influenced by John Irving's famous 'Pension Grillparzer' from The World According to Garp), but given the far more familiar meaning(s) of that word in English it is a poor choice here.
       Goodbye Tsugumi is nicely rounded off, and it is a decent melancholy account of passing from one stage in life to another; Tsugumi is also an interesting (because in part so unlikeable) character -- but Yoshimoto also makes it easy for herself by using such an over-the-top character. In the end, however, the novel feels like a very simplified take, never going beyond teenage shallowness (even where it is thoughtful teenage shallowness)

- M.A.Orthofer, 24 April 2011

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Links:

Goodbye Tsugumi: Reviews: Yoshimoto Banana: Other books by Yoshimoto Banana under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Popular Japanese author Yoshimoto Banana (よしもと ばなな; 吉本 ばなな; actually 吉本 真秀子) was born in 1964.

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© 2011 the complete review

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