I spent a long time trying to figure out how to talk about this book. The first part is so good – the writing is easy to follow, the plot is intriguing and you’ve soon fully formed an image in your mind of all the characters and their surroundings.
There’s a man that is recently unemployed and in no rush to find a job, happily cooking spaghetti for his wife who often works late. This man is looking for his wife’s missing cat in the streets of Tokyo. He starts to get anonymous phone calls. Before he knows it, he’s also looking for his wife. Has she left him or has her politician brother kidnapped her? So far so good, I really want to find out what happens next and I’m totally living his life in my head. As the story unfolds, I get confused. Wait, what is the synopsis again?
Murakami jumps from present to past, from dream to reality, from mysticism to factual history – and it’s not all so seamless. I really liked his writing and can see why he is so praised; yet I am a reader who enjoys a good dose of history and realism. So I had some trouble taking all those supernatural worlds in.
Alienation, loneliness and existentialism are themes most of us can relate to and Murakami presents that part beautifully. I also quite liked when a new character was introduced, allowing for parts of the story to make more sense, and that he talks about WWII, particularly about the war with Soviet Union, during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. He is so descriptive, that I still have the bloody images in my head (help!). Without warning, we’re again in a parallel world and keep flipping between dreams, memories, surrealism and current lucid life.
I have the impression that I should read it again knowing what I know now. Maybe it would all make more sense.
But I also think that leaving unanswered questions was part of Murakami’s plan. Some things you just can’t explain – maybe you’re meant to be left with a confusing fog to make you think about what you read, rather than having everything laid out to you.
Author: Haruki Murakami | Publisher: Vintage Books | Translation: Jay Rubin | Pages: 626