I haven’t read any Murakami for ages, well I have only read one, and that was Kafka on the Shore which I loved and had fond memories of. That was about three years ago though and we all know how our tastes can change. This months book group choice saw us reading what many people deem to be Murakami’s greatest work ‘The Wind Up Bird Chronicle’ originally published as a series of three books in Japan but brought together in one giant doorstep of a book here in the UK. Would I love the surreal world of Murakami once more?
The Wind Up Bird Chronicle is the tale of Toru Okada who when we meet him is cooking spaghetti at home for breakfast. Toru is unemployed after quitting his career in law and stays home while his wife works, does the shopping, the cleaning and is sent on errands, the latest being to find their missing cat. It is from this time that we drop into his world and so happens to be the day everything changes for him. He gets a random call from a woman which is of a very explicit nature who knows him and yet he has never met her. He visits the local ‘haunted house’ and meets one of his young neighbours a girl obsessed with death. He also meets the mysterious sisters Malta and Crete Kano one who is a psychic and hunting for his cat though no one asked her too, the other has spent half her life so far in never ending pain and then in numbness. Within weeks Toru’s wife then disappears and Toru must go on a journey with some of these crazy characters, and many more, as he has to explore his past, present and his future in order to try and find his wife.
Now being a Murakami that is not all that is involved in the book and we are sent off into the pasts of all the characters that he then meets. Some who have seen such violent things as the skinning of a man (which I couldn’t stop reading but disturbed me no end) or another who tells the tale of a zoo and its creatures killed in war. There are also tales of suburban suicides, prostitution, depression, rape, the supernatural, love that should never have been, marriage and much more. You get the feeling that though Toru is named ‘Mr Wind Up Bird’ this is less his chronicles and more the chronicles of those he meets along the way who all have different tales to tell. It’s like Toru is a vehicle for many things that Murakami wants to tell you or draw your attention to, sometimes it also seems its just Murakami’s whim. You may not get every tale or off shoot subplot nicely tied up at the end and some stories lead you off to nowhere and then just drop you, but that is all part of the magic of Murakami.
What was perfect with this book was having book group pretty much straight after I finished it. In fact the very same thing happened with Kafka on the Shore. I do find it helps to have a good old chin wag after you have read a Murakami as though it is utterly delightful to be sent of into such surreal, or as I like to call it ‘utterly doolally but brilliant’, territory you can come away thinking ‘what?’ In fact as we all said sometimes you would be worried as you read it that your mind had wandered because in a page it can change so much or become so bizarre, you flick back and find no, that’s just Murakami. I liked this book a lot, the final third part of the book I didn’t gel with so much. Overall though it was balmy brilliance… Sometimes confusing but ultimately enthralling.
If you haven’t read Murakami you should, I would try Kafka on the Shore first though, I wish I had a blog when I read it I could go back and see my thoughts on him at the time, shucks! I definitely want to read more of his work the question is which one should I try after this (I am not reading him two in a row that would be madness)? Who else has read him and what would you recommend next?