Translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin
I have enjoyed many Murakami books in the past, but for some reason I’d avoiding reading this, often described as his most famous book. I felt as though I was saving it as a special treat and built up my expectations accordingly. Unfortunately it was nothing like I expected it to be, and in the end I was quite disappointed by it.
The first half of the book was fantastic. I think the word ‘mesmorised’ is the only way I can describe it. I was glued to every word, unable to read quickly, savouring the simple story of a man struggling to find satisfaction in his life. The central character, Toru, has quit his job and so is spending much of his time alone. He starts to receive strange phone calls, his cat disappears and he is then visited by a series of fabulous characters. The stories told by each of these visitors were fantastic. I was particularly gripped by the story of the soldier and his journey into enemy territory. The story of his capture and torture was a bit gruesome in places, but it was so powerful that I think I’ll always remember it.
In the second half of the book it started to go weird, but (and this might sound strange) it wasn’t weird enough for me. It was teetering on the fine line between reality and the bizarre, but didn’t cross it. I felt that the surreal twist in the story was unnecessary and that the book would have benefited from being grounded in reality. The perfectly constructed stories of the first half were ruined by the ambiguous and unrealistic occurrences at the end. The characters introduced later in the book (Cinnamon, Nutmeg etc) failed to engage me and I don’t think I really understood their presence in the novel.
The ending was even more disappointing. The book just seemed to peter out, leaving almost all the ends untied. I was left feeling frustrated and confused, with more questions than answers. The last third of the book really dragged as there was no forward momentum and I felt as though I was wading through random, meaningless paragraphs.
Overall I’m afraid that there were too many negatives for me to be able to recommend this book. If you’re after a fantastic Murakami then I suggest you try Kafka on the Shore.
Did you enjoy The Wind-up Bird Chronicle?
What did you think of the ending?
Have you thought about sitting in the bottom of a well?!
Why did Murakami write this book? Can you see a point to it?