October 23, 2010

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Date Started: September 25
Date Finished: October 22

Summary: Toru Okada, an 30 year old unemployed man has been living a rather mundane life until his cat, Noboru Wataya (named after the brother in law he hates) goes missing. He is asked to contact a mysterious woman, Malta Kano to help find the cap. Toru meets a series of strange characters, the morbid May Kasahara, the stoic Lt. Mamiya, and Malta's sister, Creta, a stylish woman and her silent son, Cinnamon. Shortly after the cat disappears, Toru's wife, Kumiko leaves him. The rest of the novel is spent trying to unravel the mystery of Kumiko's disappears, the trauma of World War II and the Japanese campaign in Manchuria, and the stories of each characters tragic history.

Likes: This summary does not do the story justice. It is just a way of putting the story together, but don't go by just this summary. Read the book. The book, while long (it's actually 3 books in one), is surprisingly very engaging (I didn't expect to be engaged in every part that I read, but I mostly was). The story at times is very domestic, Toru living his days languidly and being left by his wife. At other times it's very strange with the Kano sisters and their psychic powers and Toru discovering his own power. At other times, it's part war story detailing Lt.Mamiya's days in Manchuria and the unspeakable horrors that he witnessed.

The story breaks all the rules of what we traditionally think of when we think of a novels. It reminds me a bit of reading a novelization of Miyazaki movie. We meander along and take different routes to ultimately get the destination. There are a lot of "mundane" moments, but mixed with the fantastical, every thing is given meaning. Nobody seems to question these strange happenings (though Toru does at points, but it's merely a passing thought) and just accepts these things as fact. I think the lack of heavy duty conflict that we see in alot of western novels makes this novel more appealing. Like Miyazaki, I was willing to meander along and take all the side roads that the author deviates to just to get to the point. (think Totoro and Ponyo only for adults)  I found myself not demanding the story to make its point quickly.  A novel that sets this kind of tone early allows for a lot of "nothing" to take place. At the end of the novel, it is clear that all the stuff one thought was "nothing" was actually mildly important. 

Dislikes: I have no idea why the U.S.edition thought it wise to put all three books in one. That was my biggest complaint. Putting them together made the book intimidating. I mean,I might have read it earlier in the quarter if it wasn't so big.

Overall: I loved this novel, but not for the reasons I typically like other novels. This novel didn't have a lot of conflict in the traditional context. It was all about the hero's journey and the look at the trauma of a nation. The book is thick and intimidating, but don't be scurred. It's a soft novel, in which you aren't overwhelmed too much despite it's size.

Recommended by: Professor Stephanie Hammer for the Metafiction class.

Acquired: Amazon.com
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Anonymous said...

Man, I hated that Russian guy, I wished Lt. Mamiya had just shot him when he had the chance, but nooo, he missed when the guy was right in front of him!

Also like you, that part where the Mongolian guy was skinning the guy alive... too gruesome to read or think about! >_<

Najela said...

I hated him too. I was mad when he missed to and then on top of that he was cursed.

Yeah, that was haunting... I don't think I could forget that scene. Ugh.. gives me the creeps.

Anonymous said...

Nice review! I read this book years ago and remembered finding it very strange but interesting. I have recently bought a new copy of it and plan to read it soon.

This was the first Murakami I read and meanwhile I've read most of them.He's one of my favorite writers.

Najela said...

Thanks. It was pretty weird, but it was enjoyable. I really look forward to reading more of his books. He's a really good writer.


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