I am big fan of Murakami, and count some of his books amongst the best I have ever read. That sets a high standard for a new novel to be judged against, but I wasn't disappointed. I could hardly put this down - reading it in two or three sittings, until i had finnished, staying up way too late one night to find out how it ends.
As so often with Murakami this book deals with loneliness, redemption, music, food, love and sex. It is compelling, beautiful and utterly captivating.
One of Murakami's best, in my opinion
I'm a huge fan of Haruki Murakami's work, but after the awful (in my opinion) "1Q84" I confess I wasn't really looking forward to reading this. I'm pleased to say that it is a much more enjoyable read, if a less challenging one.
The book opens rather depressingly with Tsukuru Tazaki full of despair as he has no friends. Back in his youth he was one of a group of five friends who were inseparable, but one day the other four ostracised Tsukuru apparently for no reason. He knew that the other four (two girls and two boys) had colours in their names whilst his did not, but surely that couldn't be the reason? He attempts to contact one of his friends to find out more but they simply tell him that he knows the reason already and shouldn't contact them again.
Years later he is on the verge of entering into a relationship but the woman he meets tells him he has issues, and that he needs to find the root cause. He explains about his circle of friends and his isolation from them, and she tells him that he needs to find out why they pushed him out, and that only by doing this will she continue with their relationship. So Tsukuru sets out to contact his old friends and find out the truth.
In many ways it is similar to his earlier work such as "Norwegian Wood", as this is an easy book to read and has a similarly cold atmosphere to it, almost a sterility. It's a bit of a page turner too, especially when Tsukuru starts to find things out, although it is a little repetitive as the latter half of the book is essentially a series of meetings and conversations. As some have commented the ending is a little open, but I drew my own conclusions about what happened next, and although I'd have liked a bit more of a full-stop at the close it wasn't too frustrating.
For those who are new to Murakami this would be a good place to start before venturing back into his stranger, often better books, but for me this was thoroughly enjoyable as it is.
When I first came across Haruki Murakami's works back in 2003 (first Norwegian Wood, then Wind-up BC, then Hard-boiled Wonderland etc etc) my world was blown apart. At the time, I was into authors like Hermann Hesse and Italo Calvino, so my acquired tastes were, while pretty out there, still not quite prepared for Murakami's counter-culture off-kilter beauty and outsider weirdness. There's something about Murakami in particular, and not just Japanese literature in general, which drew me to him. Though one of the big problems for me was translation. I really wanted to find out for myself if what I was reading was really good, or if it was the translator who was really really good. There are significant differences in style between Birnbaum, Rubin, and Gabriel, and it bothered me. I decided in 2006 to travel to Japan, ostensibly as an English teacher, but with the real agenda of mastering Japanese so I could read Murakami in the original. I returned in 2010 having paid my dues. What I'm trying to say with all this is: Murakami has changed my life quite literally. His writings actually compelled me to travel halfway across the globe and stay there for 4 years. Nowadays, I would not say that Murakami is my favourite author. I've moved on. But there is no way I would ever neglect to read any new stories he might publish. I've been burned in recent years. IQ84 was a disappointment to me, as was Kafka on the Shore. I won't say much about those books, except that I was expecting more. I still enjoyed them, and they are still very highly rated by myself, but compare either of those two books to Wind-up Bird Chronicle or Wild Sheep Chase and they fall short. So, when I came to Colorless Tsukuru I was not expecting to be blown away. I had reached that point in my relationship with Murakami to be able to say that his books no longer got me high. Which is bit sad. Well, anyway, what I want to say here is that I was pleasantly surprised. What we have here is a Murakami book which for 300-odd pages reminded me of why I fell in love with Murakami in the first place. The story itself bears a lot of comparison with Norwegian Wood. I.e. a typical "boku" narrator relating his past, and without all the sci-fi weirdness you find in other Murakami books like Hard-boiled Wonderland or IQ84. There are a fair amount of sexual anecdotes, musical discussions, cookery classes, and fairy tales within fairy tales which seem to be axiomatic to Murakami's world. What I like about this book is it's kind of an updated Norwegian Wood, not written in the 80s about the 60s, but written in the 21st century for the 21st century. The characters are older, and the aphorisms have become wiser. You might say that Norwegian Wood is a tragedy written to address the pain of being in love - whereas Colourless Tsukuru is about the more subtle tragedy of time and how it slowly dulls friendships, dreams, love, everything, and once you've got to a certain age, there's little you can do to go back. Both Norwegian Wood and Colourless Tsukuru feature madness as lynch-pins of their characters and both endings are abrupt. The abrupt ending thing was criticised in NW, and I don't doubt the same will happen here. I like it though. It makes sense to me from an artistic, rhythmic, psychological point of view. So while we might be tempted to say Colourless Tsukuru is structurally not anything new, thematically it's a very pleasant update. More weird beautiful insights for older wiser Murakami fans.
on 31 August 2014
Waiting for a new Haruki Murakami book is like waiting for one of your favourite artists to release a new album. You wait a year, finally get it and then it's all over far too soon. I was hoping this was going to be a longer book, but having said that, anything is going to seem short in comparison to the mammoth IQ84.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage follows a more straightforward story, much akin to Norwegian Wood, leaving behind the more bizarre elements such as parallel lives and other quirks found in previous works like Kafka on the Shore or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
The story follows 36 year-old Tsukuru Tazaki's quest to track down his old high school friends, who ostracised him from their close-knit group sixteen years earlier, for reasons he never understood. In order to move on at this stage in his life, Tazaki realises he needs to find out what happened. Relationships, emotions and the constant reminder of human fragility are at the core of this story, which is also quite brutal in places.
Along the way, we deal with recurring erotic dreams, sex, rape, murder and ultimately, mental health issues; a subject often addressed in Murakami's work. Other familiarities include Cutty Sark whiskey, plenty of meals, classical music and Japanese train stations, which form a large part of the backdrop to this story, as Tazaki's quest takes him from Tokyo to Finland.
As ever, the characters are intimately detailed, sensual deeply thought out – arguably Murakami's greatest strength as a writer is his ability to create fascinating, emotive and absorbing characters, and that's definitely the case here. The English translation clearly keeps the poetry of the writing and vivid visuals and ideas intact.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki was certainly worth the wait, and as always leaves you yearning for more. Once you've been sucked into Murakami's literary world, it's difficult to leave. Plus, you don't really want to.
on 20 September 2015
Another great work by a great author. Like so many of his books, this book speaks to the light and dark of the human condition and the various aspects of human relationships. Strongly recommend you read this book.
on 12 November 2015
Every year at Nobel prize time somebody says that Murakami ought to win so I thought I would try one of his higher rated novels. I wasn't terribly impressed by this one. Of course things get lost in translation but I found it flat and unengaging. The protagonist is indeed 'colorless' which doesn't help, but there are whole sections where nothing much happens. Partly because the book is set in Japan and has almost exclusively Japanese characters it just about held my interest throughout, but I expect to forget all about it in a week or so and wouldn't hurry to read another Murakami.
on 2 February 2016
It's strangely wonderful. Classic Murakami tones but with social networking and modern technology in it, unlike his older novels. As always Murakami creates somewhat mundane leading characters whom you are yet drawn to, and elements of reality and mystery intertwine and swim through the story, less so than in some of his past work but it's still there. It's not my favourite of his work but I still thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to any Murakami fan.
on 11 July 2015
The only other Murakami book I've read to date has been Norwegian Wood, which I devoured in a single day. I had high hopes for this and was not disappointed.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki tells the story of a young man exiled from his friendship group. Years later, a date encourages him to revisit the painful period that so profoundly affected his life and he tracks down his old friends one by one to uncover what happened.
The story jumps between past and present with ease, and I had no issue with the fact that so many of the book's anecdotes go unresolved because they serve more like parables than twists. If you're looking for a neat and tidy ending you might be disappointed, but the book left me feeling fulfilled and optimistic for the main character's future. I only wish we had a British English translation as the Americanisms were quite irritating, although I didn't let that affect my rating. Highly recommended!
on 16 January 2016
Very twisted/strange book (to me at least, many scenarios are not what I expected and generally quite weird haha) - I enjoy books that are hard to predict but are not too crazy that I cannot follow or understand them.
I think I would read more of Haruki Murakami's titles
on 28 August 2014
I should start by saving that Murakami is one of my all-time favourite authors and I expect that this fact will not allow me to see his books quite as independently as others, so maybe my reviews of his work should be taken with a pinch of salt.
This story follows Tsukuru Tazaki. As a teenager, Tazaki was abandoned by his four closest friends for a reason unknown to him. We are now with Tazaki as, sixteen years later; his current girlfriend Sara sets him off on a journey back into his past to discover that reason for the abandonment.
As always with Murakami, I loved the flow of the story and the characters involved. The worlds shown to us are quite simple but given in a lot of detail. The visual images that Murakami presents to the reader are strong and there are thought-provoking discussions raised. I think Murakami’s work would make a great book group read. Like others, I did prefer this to IQ84, as this feels more focussed and back to his original writing style. I also agree with others that the ending felt slightly unfinished but this didn’t mean that I enjoyed the book any less. I think this is a strong read and fans of Murakami’s original earlier work will not be left disappointed by this latest piece.