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. It is quite a big book, made up of 70-80 `bite size' chapters that are very easy to read, and also addictive -- "I just want to read one more little chapter, just one and then I'll stop reading and go to bed, I know I can stop whenever I want to, I just need to know what happens next otherwise I would never be able to sleep, it's only 5 o'clock in the morning, that gives me 3 full hours of sleep before waking up to go to work..."
Well, it seems that I can go on talking about this book for ever. This is a story of alienation and detachment, of the feeling that others have control over your life, that your options are very limited and that happiness is unattainable. Not all puzzles can be solved, and not everyone can be understood. Highly recommended.