It has been a while since I read a Haruki Murakami book. Although I have read a few novels by him, I am by no means a hardcore fan who knows everything. I read some reviews that this novel is better than IQ84 (on my list!) but pales in comparison to his earlier novels such as Kafka on the Shore and Norwegian Wood—both which are also on my list. I can neither agree nor disagree with these statements, so I can’t say much about Murakami’s writing style. However, I did thoroughly enjoy delving into the life and mind of this “colorless” character named Tsukuru Tazaki. When I read about Tsukuru and his group of friends, I felt like I could relate to him. This seemingly ordinary fellow who thinks he has no outstanding attributes compared to his friends.
I think the pacing is a little slow in some areas, but the book picks up when Tsukuru goes on his “pilgrimage” to resolve an issue from his past, thereby discovering who he is and understanding the importance of his life. The story is told nonlinearly in the beginning, jumping between two moments in the past—his high school years and college years—and the present. Then the story is told chronologically by following present-day, 36-year-old Tsukuru. I felt I was immediately thrown into the darkest moment in Tsukuru’s life in the beginning, and as the saying goes, once you hit rock bottom, the only way is up. From there, we learn his past and how much it has affected him (to the point where he welcomed death). I admit, it was a bit difficult to read because I sympathized with him.
I’m horrible at analyzing the symbolism and the themes of books, but I believe the book touches upon many topics such as spirituality, closure, and acceptance. I think the book’s main focus is the connection one has with the people whom he/she encounters. It is a bit ironic considering how much a connection I built with this fictional character, yet the ending left me baffled. I must warn you the ending is open for interpretations. I understand that the open-endedness is to show the flow of time and how Tsukuru’s life still continues onward, but after all the protagonist went through, I was hoping for something more. I guess my expectation for a happy ending is due to all the Disney movies I watched as a child, haha.
[SPOILER // highlight to view]I am still curious what happened to Haida and who killed Shiro. Was it her sister? Why weren’t there any suspects in Shiro’s case? I was hoping Haida could in some way be connected. I am curious if Tsukuru and Sara did get together, and if Tsukuru ever met Aka, Ao, and Kuro ever again. I still want to know whether the story told by the musician Haida’s father met is true, and if so, who is carrying death right now. [/SPOILER]
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book despite some plot holes and unanswered questions. I recommend listening to Franz Liszt’s Le Mal Du Pays, Switzerland while reading the novel (unless you can’t focus reading while listening, then forget my suggestion). The music was mentioned a number of times in the novel, and I think it’ll allow you to immerse yourself more in the story. Also, the book design is superb. Seriously, I was admiring the cover and first few pages longer than necessary (dat transition!).
I will end with one of my favorite quotes from the novel:
Some things in life are too complicated to explain in any language.