From the Back Cover
In a Tokyo suburb, a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat—and then for his wife as well—in a netherworld beneath the city’s placid surface. As these searches intersect, he encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists. Gripping, prophetic, and suffused with comedy and menace, this is an astonishingly imaginative detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets from Japan’s forgotten campaign in Manchuria during World War II.
A lot of people claim THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE is Murakami’s magnum opus, and, let me just say, if that’s true then I am slightly disappointed! This is one of those books you close and ask yourself, “What the heck did I just read?”
“We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close can we come to that person’s essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?”
Though Murakami’s novels are often left open-ended, I found WIND-UP BIRD to be especially meandering. As usual, there is a lack of overarching plot, but it seems more severe in this case perhaps due to its length. After spending 600+ pages with these characters, in this world, I feel no different than before, and still have a hard time putting my thoughts on this book into words. I don’t mind when a book ends without tying everything up into a nice, pretty bow, but here Murakami leaves almost too many plot points and ideas left open and unexplained, to the point where my reading experience feels rather pointless and I’m not convinced I got anything out of it.
I really struggled with the pace of this book, which, as I’ve mentioned before, might be because of my quarantine brain. I would read a 100-page stretch in a day, then 5 pages the next few days, when certain bits and pieces would come along and disrupt the pace. I got stuck around these chapters, particularly the WWII stories, and tended to lose interest just because the pace is significantly slower than when Toru narrates.
“Memories and thoughts age, just as people do. But certain thoughts can never age, and certain memories can never fade.”
Of course, it’s always easier to complain about what I didn’t like than to reflect on what I enjoyed. There are still so many things I loved about WIND-UP BIRD, particularly the way Murakami writes about suffering, desire, and the human condition, and the way he is so effortlessly able to create the most bizarre stories and pull me into his imagination’s Japan.
THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE is a fine read, but disappointing given my impossibly high expectations! Despite its issues, it’s still a crazy fun, wacky novel–obviously, it’s Murakami–but KAFKA ON THE SHORE still takes the cake as my favorite of his.