The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami

Book #125
Reviewer: Tall, Short & Tiny

The Wind-Up Bird ChronicleTo say that I enjoy the work of Haruki Murakami is an understatement; since my first encounter with his work (Kafka on the Shore), I have been eager to read more of his stories.

Picking up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I didn’t know whether it would follow a similar pattern to the previous Murakami I have read, but I did expect to be left wondering, often, what was going on.

The story is narrated by Toru Okada, a 30-year-old man who has resigned from his job and is keeping house for his young wife, Kumiko. When the couple’s cat goes missing, Kumiko enlists the help of a young medium and her sister.

While looking for the cat, Toru befriends a teenage girl; they drink beer in her backyard and she talks often of death. Through her, Toru learns about an abandoned house in the neighbourhood, where bad luck and tragedy has befallen every person who has lived on that plot of land. As Toru’s search for the cat continues, his life begins to take some unexpected turns, where the line between reality and dreams becomes blurred.

The story has just a handful of characters; some we learn more about as the story unfolds, and some appear important but in fact have only “bit parts”. In typical Murakami-style, the first-person narrative is the perfect fit for such a story, where everything and nothing unfolds at the same time.

Such an ambiguous comment needs explanation: Murakami novels are compelling and confusing, and it is often unsettling to be reading with the nagging feeling that you really don’t know what’s going on. I occasionally wondered about the purpose of some chapters, but it does all tie together (somewhat!) in the end. Murakami himself has admitted that when he writes, the story unfolds – he rarely plans the direction his novels will take.

This novel is full of twists and turns, passages that are open to interpretation and passages that are impossible to interpret. It weaves back and forth, yet on a strange level, it makes sense. It is hard to describe this feeling to those who might not have read any other Murakami novels – feeling as though you “got” the story, at the same time as knowing that you only “got” a small portion of it.

Murakami’s ability to create intriguing character histories is spell-binding. In this novel, one character tells of wartime atrocities he witnessed; one such instance is described in such graphic detail that I found quite disturbing, which only served to make it seem so much more real.

A brain-twisting, mind-boggling, intriguing read that I give 4/5 stars.

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