I had recently finished Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” – this was my second experience of his writing. I adored this book too. Much shorter than “Norwegian Wood”, it was equally poignant, painful and exquisite. The premise is simple, the return in adulthood of a childhood sweetheart, and the consequences. The execution is beautiful. Murakami has a magical way of wrapping the reader in the pain of his characters.
I admit to having been frustrated by Shimamoto, a character about whom we never learn very much. This is the point though, neither does Hajime, who has kept her in his thoughts since childhood. It is powerful that their strong hold over one another is based primarily on the past and memory, as is so often the case in life. I agree with another reviewer that the strength of the bond seems disproportionate to the picture of the childhood that is portrayed, but I think this demonstrates that over time our memory distorts reality and turns it into something so much more perfect and desirable. Hajime admits to being nostalgic, and I think that’s the key to understanding the passionate hold Shimamoto still has over him in adulthood.
I like Hajime, I believe the character, I feel for his difficulties, because he is reasonably uncomplicated, steadily making his way through life without deliberate aims or purpose, like so many of us! I think his fixation on Shimamoto gives him purpose, for a while.
Murakami’s beautiful mastery of words makes poetry of his prose, and it flows fantastically, with some breath-taking moments. But the pain portrayed is acute, and readers cannot help but feel a proportion of this pain themselves.
This is a beautiful book that I would not hesitate to recommend.