To be honest, I am writing this because I am currently reading an ARC I was able to get from NetGalley. I have been hesitant in posting book reviews and what not ever since I entered postgraduate school, which is a bit sad because in a way that meant I lost some of my self-confidence, as I started questioning if I was good enough to post such stuff, and “review” books. This is also why I don’t like titling some of my posts as reviews. Maybe I’ll get some confidence back, but as I said before, baby steps.
I think I digressed, so as I was saying, I have an ARC from NetGalley that I was currently reading, and I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with NetGalley, but I was given the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review. And I think that is a pretty nice deal, so I want to relay my thoughts as best as possible. To do that, however, I thought I should brush up on my book review posts, as I may have done book and reading related posts, but not posts on specific books and my thoughts on them.
It’s a good thing that I was able to finish reading Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, as I think sharing my thoughts on this book will help me get back into posting my thoughts on books I have read. (Also yay for finishing 1 out of my target 12 books this year! I wonder if I’ll finish this goal.) I still think this will not be as full-blown and well-prepared as other book reviews you may see, as I was never that kind of person, I tend to go by feelings, that’s just how I am with books and a lot of other things. But I’ll at least say if I like a book or not. So, on with this beta post, shall we?
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.Source: Goodreads
I think this had a slow start from me. Murakami books have that surreal quality, since I think he does incorporate magical realism in a lot of his works. The story started slowly, which was part of the build up to what was going to happen. And to be honest, all throughout the book, I had the feeling I wasn’t fully understanding everything, but it did feel like it was meant to be that way. It was like I was always kept just one step away from really getting everything, and I was fine with it. During the middle and until the end, however, I was quite hooked by it. It’s not a fast paced plot by any means, like those thrillers or action books that I also like reading, or even some YA stories that grip me and just make me want to propel until the end to see what happens, but it does make me want to read more to see what happens. The pace is just a bit more sedate, I would think, and it’s easier for me to see points where I can pause and stop for the day.
The main character, Mr. Toru Okada, was also set out and developed in such a way that I was on his side, never doubted him, and I was somehow sure that things will work out even though he seemed to be just an average guy. There’s nothing special about him, really, but maybe that’s what made him so special. Side note: if I ever am going to be unemployed, I want to be unemployed in the way he is, because he seems to still have everything he needs. Is that how it is in a first world country? Sigh. Back to the guy, I was really rooting for him, and although there were times I did wonder if he was going to be okay, I kind of felt that even things do not end up okay, he’ll still be somehow fine. Or he’ll be fine with whatever happens, and I’m good with that.
There were other characters that Mr. Okada interacted with, and again with the surreal quality surrounding everything, everyone felt like they were unreal or magical at one point or another. There seemed to be something strange with everyone and it feels like no one is ever what they held themselves to be as. I quite liked that effect. At some point things made more sense to me, and by that time I was really well into the book and quite taken by it already. All the characters, suffice it to say, were very interesting to me.
I think I may have wanted a bit more to be revealed at the end of the story, like some more resolution, but I’m not too mad at where the author left it. There was just enough resolution, I just wanted a bit more, especially between the couple in the story. But again, it all just adds to the surreal effect throughout the whole book. And I like how what seemed like disparate parts or themes all tied up together at the end.
Do I recommend this book? Yes, definitely. I enjoyed the pace and build up of this book, and by the middle of it I had a very difficult time putting it down. And then I do try to find time to read it again and just get lost within its pages. Just a note, there may be some themes that might be a trigger to some, such as death, sexual assault, and there is also violence here, and it’s not just the physical kind.
If I were to rate this book, and I’m very generous with giving stars or what not on Goodreads, I’d rate this one a five. I really enjoyed reading as an activity with this book, and it definitely took me on a strange but interesting journey, exactly what I wanted in a book. It’s a bit unsettling, but some stories and authors just have that approach, and it didn’t bother me too much to want to stop reading.
P.S. A cursory reading of the Wikipedia page on this book shows that the English translation which I read may not have all the parts and may have some differences in chronology compared to the original Japanese text. While I still like the book, this adds to my desire of learning Japanese enough that I can read the original.