Tsukuru has always felt less than his friends, less deserving of his place in their close-knit friendship circle- unlike his friends, his name is colourless, and he sees this reflected in his lack of personality. However, one day his friends suddenly cut contact with him and never speak to him again. 16 years later, Tsukuru begins to search for answers under the encouragement of his current fiance, Sara.
This is a book about three things: nostalgia, growing up and revelation. It’s a revelation-based book, but it isn’t particularly well written. It’s a decent book, but it’s not masterpiece, let me explain why.
Firstly, it’s a book about growing up an nostalgia right? It’s about going from point A to B- what happened 16 years ago, and how it is now. Except, point A, the initial starting point, is never clearly described. Murakami doesn’t capture the friendship through evoking vivid memories, rather slapping down 4 character profiles together, as if he was writing a Wikipedia page for the friendship group. We don’t get to know the friends very well, we are left with a short, trope-filled description for which we are supposed to expand to whole characters. Although, it was refreshing to see these overturned once they grew up. However, the way the characters are introduced (or rather lack of) meant I wasn’t very interested in them, as I didn’t know much about them. So when big revelations did come, such as a character revealing their true sexuality, I really couldn’t care less.
Furthermore, there is way too much travelling in this book. Murakami feels the need to describe.every.fucking.detail. Do I really need to know that Tsukuru asks the Finnish transport person for directions, that he changes trains 3 times and have each train line described? Furthermore, the prose is ungracefully cut with philosophical and scientific discussions which are written in textbook language, and it seems impossible that humans are saying these words, not textbooks. These conversations are rigid and awkward and are not well integrated into the book, and their meaning is often unclear.
Not only could the novel be more succinct, the prose… was bland. For the first 50 pages I felt like the translator just translated every sentence without giving a thought about how the sentences might join together or flow. The narration felt distant and apathetic, and sometimes like a Wikipedia page. It consisted of almost only simple sentences.
The novel has explores dark themes, yet it merely dips its toes in the water, decides its too cold and goes back to be warmed by a pair of tits (literally). The darkest aspects of the novels are never resolved or fully explored. Mental illness is dismissed as “evil spirits”, which I find extremely irresponsible and unhelpful- considering that it writes off mental illness as something mysterious and inherently unknowable (which only perpetuates the stigma around mental health issues), and the idea of “evil spirits” has connections with very crude, historical ideas about mental illness. But it’s fine that this is never resolved according to the novel, because Tsukuru gets to touch lots of tits! (not lying).
A feeling of incompletion pervades the novel. This is terrible because it’s a revelation-based novel! And the point of such a novel is to discover secrets and truths!
This is a decent book, but it could have been much better.
Also, I did not mean to offend Wikipedia in this review, it’s a pretty decent site,
I’m interested to hear what everyone else thought, comment below.
Content warnings (spoilery): sexually explicit descriptions, rape