on 6 April 2014
"Sputnik Sweetheart" by Haruki Murakami is book that speaks about loneliness, about the sense of inevitability when love decays and we are unable to do anything about it.
The book has three main characters - a college student, who is called K. is in love with his best friend Sumire. Sumire is an ambitious writer who sees K. as close friend, but nothing more. On the other hand, Sumire is crazy in love with Miu, who is married and can't longer love anyone due to her difficult and traumatic experience back in student time. Sumire will give up her writing to be able to work as Miu's assistant and they will depart to Greece for a business trip. When Sumire will mysteriously vanish without any trace, Miu will ask K. to help search for her...
With its theme of loneliness and isolation, this book by Haruki Murakami is similar to his some other works.
Due to that, he choose Sputnik motive for its title that is in same sense isolated from the world like this book's characters.
Additionally, through this book the author is asking questions of human identity and sexuality, conscious and unconscious world, but it's also full of mystery in the literal and figurative sense.
This book is an excellent choice for first book you'll read from Murakami, it will introduce you to his world, his beautiful literary style and for sure you'll be eager to read some other of his works (my first suggestions would be "Kafka on the Shore" and "Wind-Up Bird Chronicle").
For all his existing fans, inside you'll find his well-known simple but beautifully warm writing that awakens feelings of loneliness and makes you hug your loved one beside you, happy you're not alone as his characters are.
Due to that, I can strongly recommend you to read this as well as his other books to see that the loneliness is still one of the hardest things that a human being could suffer.
on 21 September 2015
Lively and entertaining book full of little scenes and quasi-philosophical observations, gradually turning into high drama. It is mainly about chaotic Sumire (22), whose sole passion is to write the ultimate novel and who has never felt any sexual desire. Until she meets Miu (38), a married Korean-Japanese ex-pianist, now businesswoman, who transforms her into a non-smoking, perfectly-dressed and competent personal secretary.The person recording it all is an unnamed male person, K (24), a fellow student Sumire trusts and loves above anyone else, calling him at all hours, discussing music, books and life until dawn. K is keenly attracted to her physically, but knows any pass would spoil their bond forever.
This reader (m) is an amateur re HM, having read only a handful of his novels. Here, the lighter parts read like Milan Kundera, the name dropping of foreign brands more like Bret Easton Ellis or Jay McInerney; the vast knowledge of pop, jazz and classical music is strictly HM’s own. The novel ups tempo when K in Tokyo receives a call from Greece from Miu. Could he please rush to a small island near Rhodes? Why? Because Sumire has disappeared, as if gone up in smoke…
What follows is for readers to find out. This reader is of the recreational type, not keen on explaining philosophical or supernatural matters. However, one theme is the utter loneliness of every soul on earth and beyond, symbolized by the dog Laika viewing the earth briefly in 1957 from the SU Sputnik satellite. Another is Japanese upbringing and schooling: the little shoplifter in Ch 15 could now be a “hikikomori” a stayer-with-parents, adult Japanese rejectionists of real life not found in such great numbers elsewhere. But his teacher K. may have saved him just in time…
When finished I realized that even the most innocent remark, image or anecdote, would return later in a different context. A woven book. Parallel worlds, time warps, stellar dark holes double as deep wells in which a character pines for release, are ideas and images Murakami elegantly hogties with more mundane writing, creating a unique worldview. Diehard (f?) fans will grab its gravitas all at once or reread it again and again, playing all the musical pieces mentioned with the right performers, accessed via Google and YouTube. Found one minus point: Sumire’s early attempts at defining herself. Too woolly for recreational readers. Otherwise, engrossing and worth re-reading.
An excellent, though quite short story of just over 200 ages, about the love of a young man for a young woman who is in turn wildly in love with a much older woman.
Set partly in Japan, partly on a Greek island, this is a slighly sad, rather fragile tale of unrequited love. Full of Marakami regulars - cats, earlobes, music, brand names, and the moon all appear, this still has a fresh feel, and is a fascinating mixture of the slightly surreal, and page turning compulsive reading. I loved reading this and was sad when it was finished - especially as so much remains unresolved at the final page
on 28 October 2013
In many ways, Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart is a typical novel from the Japanese writer. Certain themes and motifs are present in many of Murakami's works. Sputnik Sweetheart follows the brilliant Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the novel I believe to be Murakami's masterwork. Whereas that story was like a labyrinth, this is a more straightforward kind of tale, or as straightforward as a Murakami story can be.
Interestingly, after the other labyrinth-like work, Kafka on the Shore, Murakami also followed that with a more contained kind of novel, After Dark. And at the centre of both Sputnik Sweetheart and After Dark are female characters, which is something of a rarity for the author.
Neither Sputnik Sweetheart nor After Dark are bad novels. In fact, they are very good novels. But it does seem that these novels are a kind of `break' for Murakami. Similarly, the expansive work Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World was followed by the more intimate Norwegian Wood. Therefore, when you look at Murakami's bibliography, you do see a pattern emerge.
Whilst The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was a story about a missing cat, Sputnik Sweetheart is about a missing woman. The woman in question, Simire, is a young aspiring novelist, and realises she is a lesbian when she meets a woman named Miu at a family member's wedding. Up until meeting Miu, Simire's sole focus in life was writing. Although Simire is at the centre of the novel, in typical Murakami style, it is narrated by a male protagonist. This man, named `K.', is Sumire's only connection with the real world before she meets Miu. K. is in love with Sumire, although his feelings are not reciprocated.
Unfortunately, I do think the narrator could be more compelling, as he doesn't seem to react much to the woman he loves falling for someone else. This is where the novel falls short slightly. Of course by nature, Murakami's protagonists are somewhat apathetic, but this did feel a little unnatural. What was also frustrating was the lack of closure. Ambiguity isn't something that I normally find a problem in stories - The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is perhaps Murakami's most ambiguous novel, yet it is also my favourite. But the loose ends in Sputnik Sweetheart feel a little unfair on the reader. Whilst in Wind-Up Bird the reader effectively had a whole world to play with, again, this is a story which is quite contained, and so it feels more important that we find out the answers. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable read, but it does feel as though Murakami doesn't see off the dangers his formula brings quite as well as he does in other works.
on 29 February 2004
This book is one of my favourites ever. I had always been meaning to read it, but never gotten around to it, and I'm so glad I finally did!
The story focusses on misplaced love, love without desire, and desire without love. The unusual circumstances into which the characters are thrown forces them to evaluate their lives, and the magic that has interspersed at crucial periods to make them who they are today.
This is not a 'pretty' story but neither is it like 'grity reality' modern fiction, the words carry you along and force you to consder the deeper underlying factors in your own life.
on 15 April 2013
The love-triange (if you can call it that) that forms the basic story of this novel is probably known by all readers, so I won't bother mentioning it. It's enough to say that "Sputnik Sweetheart" is about unrequited love. It's also about sexual desire, & Murakami does a beautiful job of describing what it feels like to want someone so badly that it almost hurts. What made Murakami's writing even more enjoyable for me, was the way feelings had to be discovered behind words, between the lines. Maybe it has to do with the minimalist japanese tradition. But I find it so rewarding reading something where every word has its meaning, & not just its obvious meaning but a hidden meaning underneath, & a connection to the rest of the story...I'll certainly be returning to Murakami's work. It has been so refreshing to read a novel so sparse & minimal, & yet so full of emotion. In the end, words can be extremely powerful if they're just used with care & without wasting them or overdoing it with description. Murakami is clearly a talented author & also seems to be a thoughtful & unique person.
on 18 October 2002
Murakami picks up the themes from Wild Sheep/DanceDanceDance/Wind-Up Bird once more, with, in this case, the title referring to the lonely isolation of typical human existence, rather like satellites drifting around in the void, only rarely encountering fellow travellers. Once again, there's a reality/dreamworld duality, an attempt to explore the subconscious, a sense of alienation from self and others, and a search for the forms and ideas that we somehow feel must exist somewhere, but definitely aren't knocking around in the real world.
Which is fine as far as it goes - and Murakami pulls this trick off better than anyone else - but it was done a lot better in the books mentioned above. Not only does this book feel lightweight in comparison (although it runs to 220 pages, it has that existentialist short story feeling), it simply leaves too many holes in the narrative. If anything, it reads as a defeated attempt to understand the problems he's been attacking in his earlier work: "well, I'm not even going to try and guess what's in the gaps in reality this time - you figure it out. I'm off to the pub".
If you've stayed with me this far, I should, in fairness, point out that he still writes brilliantly. The language and imagery is as great as ever; the characters do, by and large, convince, seduce and entertain; the dialogue conjures up a field of human interaction that's uncomfortably realistic in its sense of isolation.
But we've been led to expect more than this... more story, more answers, or at the very least, some different questions. Beautiful prose and "deep" characters don't on their own make a great novel - if you don't believe me, try and read Anil's Ghost all the way through.
Haruki Murakami is one of the greatest novellists you can get at in English today, so please read him. But if this is your first experience, please read one of his other books. They're better.
on 7 March 2003
This is the question asked by the narrator of Sputnik Sweetheart. "What's the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the Earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?"
Sputnik Sweetheart doesn't answer this question; it only asks it through the story of Sumire, a 22-year-old girl who fall in love with a woman seventeen years her senior. The narrator, K, who is also the "narratee" because he is Sumire's confidant, recounts the complexes and sometimes surreal lives of Sputnik Sweetheart's characters. Sumire, who dreams of being a writer until she meets Miu. Miu, a rich wine dealer whose hairs turned all white in one night some forty years ago, and himself, a teacher who is having an affair with the mother of one of his pupils.
In some respects it's a Japanese "Jules et Jim". Despite his affair, K is in love with Sumire; Sumire realises one day that she is in love with a woman, Miu, but the latter can't love anyone anymore. This impossible love triangle could have stood still for a long time if one day, whilst Miu and Sumire were on holiday on a Greek island, Sumire hadn't suddenly disappeared. This disappearance is the cathartic event that will expose the loneliness of Murakami's characters and by extension our loneliness.
Murakami is my second attempt at Japanese literature. I started with Mishima's Golden Pavilion some years ago, and that definitely wasn't an easy read. Murakami's style is much easier, more "modern", and the narrative more straightforward. Every sentence seems to be constructed with the optimal number of words, like Sumire's writing. The different parts of the novel feel exactly the right length, and the action progresses just when you feel it should progress. Somehow, it feels as if it were mathematically constructed, and that this is a choice to epitomize the way we live, mechanically, without really thinking about the root of our passion (and our actions) until we are confronted with them or they are challenged.
Sputnik Sweetheart is a story of love, of loneliness, and of a friendship that love reveals but could also destroy. It is an emotional journey that makes us thinks about our relations with our friends and loved ones. Why do we love them, why do we came to love them, why do we need them, and what would happen if they were to disappear from our life?
A very simple story that succeeds where long and heavy ones have failed
on 4 August 2014
This is the first Murakami book I've read, and honestly, I liked it. Really enjoyed it. I've read some samples of his other work and they seem, oh I don't know... vast? Grand, drenched in mystery and somewhat intimidating. So I started off small, light... easy.
This book I really enjoyed. I very much enjoyed the three main characters this book follows. The writing and feel of the book are like hooks with lots of little hooks that once get you, will not let go.
Loneliness looms over these characters throughout the story, and I was left to wonder if happiness would grace them. It is quite a real setting that dips its toe into the supernatural at times.
very much enjoyed this book, and have bought a few other books of Murakami to lose myself in.
on 19 June 2001
After reading several Murakami books over the last few months, I felt this lacked originality over his previous works - the same themes of unreturned love, lack of sexual passion, hair colour changes, wells (only make a brief appearance in this one) and male lack of ambition are there. Only this time there is even less plot and you finish the book wondering what the point was. Get it to complete your collection but I recommend reading Norwegian Wood (similar in scope and approach) and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (wider plot and better characterisation) in preference. Still rates 4 stars because Murakami writes well but this is not his best.