After reading Kafka on the Shore earlier this year I felt I had thrust open doors to entire new solar systems of thought and fiction - Murakami's totally bizarre, ambiguous and sometimes very sinister worlds completely enthralled and surprised me; how I had not discovered him before now? I understand that his storytelling might not be everyone's cup of tea; some people like their reading to be less confusing and to have more of a clear plotline and, well, point. My second experience of this legendary author, although not pulling me in quite as much as Kafka, certainly did not disappoint.
Toru Okada is your typical Japanese unemployed 'everyman' (this is always a good starting point for me, I appreciate good books with amazingly ordinary characters at the center of them; take Diary of a Nobody for example) married to Kumiko, a woman who works in a high-pressure job for a publishing house. They have a cat called Noboru Wataya (a recurring name you have to keep an eye out for in Murakami novels) named after Kumiko's sinister and powerful brother. This beloved family pet has completely disappeared, leaving Toru's wife in distress and forming a frame for the story that follows; the mysterious disappearance of Kumiko herself and the strange set of circumstances that follow.
This is a characteristically quirky book; detached, philosophical, vivid and thought-provoking. Toru Okada is numb in his loss; the bizarre (journeys through the wall of a dried-up well - much like Alice down the rabbit hole) are treated normally and the mundane (eating pasta) take on a whole new lease of life with the ever-pervading sense of tension and, at times, dread, as the 'Wind-up' bird disappears from his garden and he is bombarded by phone calls and visits from a cast of eccentric characters. What happens to Toru exactly I couldn't really say, partially because I would hate to spoil it for anyone and also because, well, I don't really know! I love Murakami's oblique view of the world and I can't wait to read his new offering this year, but I am certain that there are whole chunks of meaning in his novels that I am only just grasping the cusp of, with much of it completely passing me by. Hopefully I will get a bit brighter with old age and this will improve but in the meantime his books and the characters within them are absolutely haunting and I thrust his work on anyone unlucky enough to peruse my bookshelf.
Although I'm up for reading a few spooky novels this autumn/winter (Rebecca being my starting point) I think I might lean towards a bit of a Japanese theme this year and next. The country and culture completely fascinates me and a good friend has just settled down over there so, you never know, perhaps an exciting journey could be on the cards over the next couple of years. Better start doing some research..
And...upon reflection, especially with such a mind-bending piece of writing, yes, I think the break between reading and review-writing did us both some good! Perhaps this is something to reflect on for future posts..what do you think?