Like an unexpected journey, Murakami’s latest novel did not take me where I thought it would.
The prose was beautiful, the characters extremely well-crafted, the introspections poignant, but the overall story arc was not pleasing. Whether or not this was Murakami’s attempt at a wabi-sabi style of writing, I’m sure I will never know, but I would definitely caution readers not to compare it to previous masterworks such as 1Q84 and/or Kafka on the Shore.
Did I like it? I liked the act of reading it. His words are so well put-together, that it could never be a displeasure to read. But I really didn’t enjoy the story all that much. Our protagonist moves, only to go nowhere. He hesitates, only to find out his hesitations were made in vain. Our story takes place after the action, and there isn’t really any apex to crest over our suspense. It’s a procedural uncovering of the truth.
The hardest part for me was that instead of closing on a definitive chord, the book seemed to sort of trail off… how very Japanese. In a funny echo, the last paragraph of this book reminds me of The Great Gatsby. Pick it up for a read and tell me you get the same impression.
This book is surprisingly realist compared to a lot of his other novels, and yet I found it weird because of its realism. Sure, there are some weird dreams and an unexplained murder, but seen from the perspective of our main character, these only surreal elements of the book feel more like his over-active imaginations, than an active presence of surreal-ness in the world.
From a physical aesthetic standpoint, I want to mention this book is very well-bound and attractive. It’s slightly shorter than most books, and fits well in your hand. Also, the hardcover design beneath the cellophane-fingered dust jacket is very nice as well. I actually prefer it with the dust jacket off.
So, should you read it? Hmmm, I think you should. Despite its oddness, it definitely has a sad beauty about it. And its theme of unresolved issues from adolescence and the incredulity of where we all end up is one that everyone can relate to. Plus, as I said, it’s beautifully written.
Let me know what you think! Murakami is one of my favourite authors, and I’d love to hear some opinions of other frequent Murakami readers about this one.