I've heard about Banana Yoshimoto on various blogs and have been meaning to check out her books for a while when I came across this one in the library sale, it also made a great first read for the Japanese Literature Challenge.
Maria has lived in her aunts inn by the sea for the whole of her life, her parents are together yet apart as her dad is having an affair with her mother while he tries and arranges his divorce. Despite the strange living arrangements Maria seems to enjoy her life were she is, living next door to her teenage cousins. Her cousin Tsugumi has a lifelong illness which leaves her tired, feverish and often in and out of hospital with the possibility of death looming frequently.
Because of Tsugumi's illness she gets away with her terrible manners, fierce behaviour and sharp comments - yet underneath this fierce exterior is a young girl desperately battling to stay alive and be treated like a princess by everyone.
Maria, finally gets her family living together in Tokyo and spends one last summer at the seaside in her cousins inn, before it gets sold off. In this summer a boy arrives, who seemingly disolves Tsugumi's emotional barriers.
I'm not sure what I was expecting with this book, but it was completely different to what I expected. It never felt Japanese, which sounds silly, but this seaside and the life they led could easily have been England.
Challenges: Japanese Literature Challenge, book 1 of 3 YA Challenge Book 10 of 12, 20th Century Challenge: 1989
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