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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle [Paperback]

Haruki Murakami , Jay Rubin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 April 1999

Toru Okada's cat has disappeared.

His wife is growing more distant every day.

Then there are the increasingly explicit telephone calls he has recently been receiving.

As this compelling story unfolds, the tidy suburban realities of Okada's vague and blameless life, spent cooking, reading, listening to jazz and opera and drinking beer at the kitchen table, are turned inside out, and he embarks on a bizarre journey, guided (however obscurely) by a succession of characters, each with a tale to tell.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (22 April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8129119234
  • ISBN-13: 978-8129119230
  • ASIN: 0099448793
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Bad things come in threes for Toru Okada. He loses his job, his cat disappears, and then his wife fails to return from work. His search for his wife (and his cat) introduces him to a bizarre collection of characters, including two psychic sisters, a possibly unbalanced teenager, an old soldier who witnessed the massacres on the Chinese mainland at the beginning of the Second World War, and a very shady politician.

Haruki Murakami is a master of subtly disturbing prose. Mundane events throb with menace, while the bizarre is accepted without comment. Meaning always seems to be just out of reach, for the reader as well as for the characters, yet one is drawn inexorably into a mystery that may have no solution. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is an extended meditation on themes that appear throughout Murakami's earlier work. The tropes of popular culture, movies, music, detective stories, combine to create a work that explores both the surface and the hidden depths of Japanese society at the end of the 20th century.

If it were possible to isolate one theme in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle that theme would be responsibility. The atrocities committed by the Japanese army in China keep rising to the surface like a repressed memory, and Toru Okada himself is compelled by events to take responsibility for his actions and struggle with his essentially passive nature. If Toru is supposed to be a Japanese Everyman, steeped as he is in Western popular culture and ignorant of the secret history of his own nation, this novel paints a bleak picture. Like the winding up of the titular bird, Murakami slowly twists the gossamer threads of his story into something of considerable weight. --Simon Leake, --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"Deeply philosophical and teasingly perplexing, it is impossible to put down" (Daily Telegraph)

"Visionary...a bold and generous book" (New York Times)

"Murakami weaves textured layers of reality into a shot-silk garment of deceptive beauty" (Independent on Sunday)

"Mesmerising, surreal, this really is the work of a true original" (The Times)

"Critics have variously likened him to Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler, Arthur C. Clarke, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Bret Easton Ellis and Thomas Pynchon - a roster so ill assorted as to suggest Murakami is in fact an original" (New York Times)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
145 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No man is an island 25 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This book haunted me from page 1, and is still haunting me now that I've read it. I started reading this book when I was jet-lagged after returning from a trip in Japan; and reading it did not help at all. I was completely gripped. I ended up reading chunks of it in the middle of the night, and living in a state of detached sleepwalking during the day. Thank God I've finished it and managed to have some real sleep.
Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is about an "I" who is quite similar to the other "I"'s of Murakami's novels: the narrator, Okada, describes himself as completely normal, feels that he is somewhat a failure in life, feels detached and alienated, is well cultured especially in literature and music, knows the names of the Karamazov brothers and uses swimming and ironing as an anti-stress therapy. Not feeling very happy with his life, he quits his job for a break and to think about his next move. At around the same time his cat disappears, he meets a bored neighbour in her mid-teens, and his wife starts arriving later and later everyday from work. Okada's life becomes mundane: looking for his cat, listening to music, reading history books, shopping, cooking and eating at odd hours, chatting with his neighbour, waiting for his wife, a phonecall, or a letter, etc. Strange characters start to make their appearance in his life, telling him their life stories and slowly dragging him into a world of mysticism and occult. Mysterious events begin to take more time from his everyday mundane life giving this novel a very dark and surreal atmosphere.
This novel is very well written (thanks to both the author and the translator). It is clever, funny and also melancholic. It is full of witty remarks.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eerie, gripping, elusive. 20 May 2013
This book sits up there for me with some of the all time greats. The transformation of the main character from a grey, non-descript nobody to a figure who's life stretches out across time and space in ways you cannot imagine is delivered masterfully. I have seldom found a book that addresses the potential for creativity that lies within the spaces in-between life. The bus journeys, the days off sick, the unemployed wasteland, bunking off school, derelict buildings. Sounds mundane right? Wrong, this story slowly draws the curtain aside to reveal a beautiful and horrific world, as though we are walking across one huge shallow grave. The weight of the Japanese national identity ties knots of guilt and reparation throughout the book; one can feel an accusatory finger following us in every scene of the journey saying, "you did this, what will you do?" to the reader.

Murakami draws the reader into the darkest of wells and challenges us to reach down as far as we can, to face whatever lives down there. He traces the hero's journey and uses imagery that fits perfectly with Jungian ideas of our own hero's journey; only seeing clearly, feeling fully, when the sun is at it's peak. Murakami resists the temptation to tie up loose ends and in doing so, gives the reader the freedom to continue with this narrative in whatever form it takes in their own imagination.

This is neither for the faint hearted, nor for those that need a nice clean neat finish. If you are ready to step outside of the mundane into the uncertainty that lives just behind this veil of reality, if you can live with the mystery, then this book is for you. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plenty to enchant; plenty to frustrate 24 Feb 2014
By Archy
I don't know what to make of this. It's a very long book, and there is a lot in it, lots of different stories. But they all centre around the protagonist, a man who has opted out and lives a humdrum life pottering about the house. Then first his cat disappears and then his wife leaves him. His life becomes devoted to getting her back, and along the way he encounters a multitude of odd and curious characters. He meditates at the bottom of a dry well; he sits on a bench watching people's faces; he receives odd presents and letters from war survivors. But none of this really touches him.

It's mostly engrossing, captivating stuff; each section is easily digestible and often leaps ahead or aside to another view without really alienating the reader. Some of these pieces don't appear to have much connection to the main story at all. I was quite hooked, however, from the beginning until, well, until quite near the end. And yet, despite the four stars I feel it deserves, it's left me feeling frustrated and vaguely dissatisfied, with a decision not to bother with any more of this author's work. Why? It just seems to be too much smoke and mirrors, too much contrivance, to many easy ways out, too much exposition at the end to explain what's gone before. Just when does surrealism, metaphor and symbolism become a cop-out?
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and self-reflexive 11 Feb 2006
Having been aware of the hype surrounding Murakami I was cautious when I began reading this novel, considered by some to be his masterpiece. I was expecting a throw-away offering from Japanese pop culture, but was impressed by how intelligent the book is.

True, if you are seeking a coherent story with a well-rounded plot you will probably be disappointed. The narrative revolves around the main character and his search for his lost cat. By way of a number of loosely-connected episodes, involving some intriguing and eccentric characters, and unexplained supernatural occurrences, this search develops into an investigation into the very nature of his own being.

There are, however, strong themes that are ever present in the fates and thoughts of the characters. At one point Murakami hints that there may, in the end, be no explanation for the supernatural events of the story. But that is entirely in keeping with the reflective passages on secrets and trust, reality and illusion, unity, doubleness and disintegration. I especially liked the chapters featuring the WWII veteran Lieutenant Mamiya - this character and his war stories are just brilliant.

This is a highly introspective and personal story that is not afraid to discuss matters that might not be suitable subjects at the dinner table. Murakami is also highly aware of his presence and role as author, and this is possibly where the main interest of the novel lies. The central questions of the novel seem to be, how far can language convey the ineffable? And what exactly constitutes reality and consciousness?

Despite being a deceptively easy read and capable of evoking highly lucid images, this novel is perhaps better suited to the reader with a slightly more serious attitude to literature, who has the time to interpret the story from the scattered hints and moments of realisation.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but Weird
It's an interesting read, a bit weird, I'm not a deep thoughtful abstract thinker so to be honest I didn't understand the plot or any hidden meanings to the story. Read more
Published 7 days ago by DMZ92
5.0 out of 5 stars In Love With Murakami :-)
This book stays with me in a way that very few books have. I keep thinking about it.
I have read quite a few of Murakami's books. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Anna M. Harte
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Murakami is a genius and this is my favourite of his novels to date.
Published 25 days ago by Ms. Robyn Moore
3.0 out of 5 stars So - great cover, shame about the book
This is my first Murakami novel - a serious omission, I thought, given recent claims that he is a Nobel prize-winner in waiting. Read more
Published 27 days ago by J. Edmiston
2.0 out of 5 stars Book review
Didn't like the writing style so gave away.
Published 1 month ago by Carol R
5.0 out of 5 stars Does anybody know if this is the abridged or unabridged ...
Does anybody know if this is the abridged or unabridged version? The US version is 607 pages, but one of the reviewers read it in both a non-English translation and the English... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Wallywood
1.0 out of 5 stars Excruciating
If this book had an editor s/he should be shot. Forced myself to plough on to the end. Wish I hadn't, as so much of the book seemed pointless, disjointed and verbose to the point... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Janet Robson
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story
Quirky and Japanese. Good if you want osmething a bit different.
Published 2 months ago by JP
1.0 out of 5 stars Not My Cup of Tea, even Slightly
I didn't like the style of the writing and found this difficult continuity-wise. After reading a fair amount into this enormous book, I found it too implausible to continue. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Terri
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this writer
Having read IQ84 which I loved I thought I would try another of his books. He is really good at creating a world where nothing is really as it should be. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Shaun Christobel Edwards
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