WBN 100: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

After a quick and easy starter – Catcher in the Rye – I wanted to get one of the larger books polished off. What better than the 600+ page rollercoaster of a novel that is The Wind-up Chronicle?

My first reaction to seeing this book, along with two other Murakami works, on this list, was surprise. I’ve been a fan of Murakami for a few years now, since reading this very book at university. The thing that draws me back to Murakami again and again is that he’s so different, so readable and so memorable. He has a very dedicated cult following, but I wouldn’t have described him as a mainstream taste. Obviously – I was wrong! I’m so pleased that this underappreciated author is getting some World Book Night love!

Murakami has several themes and motifs that he visits over and over again in his novel. One is hotels, another is cats. Both feature in this story, a rather epic tale of a suburban house husband named Toru Okada whose cat goes missing. It seems like an innocuous event, but it’s a precursor to an unsettling journey that Okada must make. Little by little Okada’s world falls apart, and it is up to him to piece it back together again, helped along the way by a series of increasingly enigmatic guides.

Further than that, it’s almost impossible to describe this book, which is making my review extremely hard! It’s surreal, and exquisitely written. The scenes that Murakami paints are vivid, whether he is writing about a faceless woman that may or may not be Okada’s wife, in a hotel room that may or may not be real, about an army sergeant ordering his men to assassinate zoo animals or about an average Japanese man picking up his dry cleaning.

However, you really have to be able to deal with the fact that when you read a Murakami novel, there will be many, many loose ends. Little, if anything will be fully explained and sometimes – weird things just happen! You need to be able to accept that there are people with special spiritual powers, and that there is a blurring between different realities, and that dreams can be both real and not real.

So it’s not for everyone, but if you think that you would enjoy this novel, I recommend it very highly as a refreshing change from your usual linear novel. It was so much fun to reread – I had forgotten the intricacies and details that made it so enjoyable.

Now, I’m about three quarters of the way through the next novel, The Great Gatsby. It’s a fairly short one so hopefully, should be able to finish that one off today. But it took almost six days to read Wind-up Bird, thanks to a particularly busy week, so I need to pick up the pace now.

Wish me luck!

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