Synopsis: In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan’s forgotten campaign in Manchuria.
I kid you not, I think that this book was on my shelf for around 2 years before I picked it up and started reading it. It’s not that I didn’t want to read it or thought that I wouldn’t like it, it’s just that it was never the right time if that makes sense? And then suddenly, during the lockdown in my city, it was time! What I needed was an escape into a magical-realism world that was so completely different from my current existence.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles was a really interesting read. I’ve read two books by Murakami before, 1Q84 which I absolutely loved, and Kafka on the Shore which was less of a favourite of mine. I would say that I liked Wind-Up Bird almost as much as 1Q84, but it wasn’t enough to unseat my favourite. I thought that the progression of the story was really interesting, and by surrounding Toru’s story with the stories of so many others it really deepened the plot. I loved Lt. Mamiya’s story, especially because it’s an aspect of history that I didn’t know much about, and even reading a fictional account of the Japanese occupation in Manchukuo was interesting.
Toru’s struggle to find his cat and wife was of course the main focus on the book, but through his search to find them I think he also discovered a lot more about himself. We slowly learn throughout the novel that his relationship with his wife wasn’t as solid or good as he always thought, and Murakami shows this through scenarios both big and small. For example, we see how Toru wasn’t attentive to what his wife wanted for supper or from the store, and wouldn’t act in the most sensitive manner when she brought these issues up. However we also learn that as a couple they became pregnant and made the decision to abort the child, and throughout that process Toru wasn’t as supportive as he could have been, leading to Kumiko feeling abandonned and adrift. The study of their relationship is really interesting to watch unfold, and the ending of the novel (while unexpected) really shows how they have grown into their own people and in their relationship.
I will say that one thing that made me uncomfortable (and that Murakami has a history of doing in his books that makes me uncomfortable) was how May was kind of sexualized throughout the book. We know that she is still in highschool and so sometimes her interactions with Toru felt a little… creepy? Uncomfortable? Probably both. So for some sections of the book I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have without those undertones. But I do feel like that was less of an issue in this book as opposed to like Kafka on the Shore, and so it was marginally better.
Overall I would say that I really enjoyed this book, and while it was weird and confusing at some points, I would still give it a 5/5. I love Murakami, and I’m excited to try another book by him soon.
Have a great day ducks!