11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2014
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?
155 of 166 people found the following review helpful
on 25 September 2000
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.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 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.
49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Beginning with the disappearance of the family cat, weaving back and forwards through time and through alternative worlds, this is a hypnotic and captivating novel. It is almost impossible to put down especially towards the end where Murakami brings many of the story's threads together. But this wouldn't be Murakami if it all made sense - some characters appear, seem substantial, but just don't reappear. Some story lines just fade out and some are never really completed. It is hard to describe, but the overall effect is magical and the 600 odd pages fly by.
Various characters appear along the way - all with their own tales to tell, many with unusual communication skills, all with their own traumas, and all with something to contribute to the narrator's quest which has quickly become much, much more than a search for the family cat
One of Murakami's best
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 October 2014
This was my first taste of Murakami. After 5 pages I thought I was going to hate it, by the end I'd filled my shopping cart with a hefty pile of his other books. It's hard to describe what makes this novel so good, certainly a description of it's plot wouldn't make it sound particularly enticing, but the mood created is so immersive and wonderfully dream-like that I was just carried away with it all and felt quite upset when the book was over. Easy to read, but full of some very weighty themes, imagery and stories within stories (the war-time chapters I found particularly moving, and often horrifying), The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a stunning achievement and I think rightly qualifies as a work of art.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2011
This is a must read for anybody who wants to get lost in a dream like fiction, fantasy like book. I absolutely love this book, one of my favourite reads (I have read all of his books)and I have just purchased this to re-read again as I mislaid my first copy!. This has got to be in my top ten books of all times. I would definitely recommend it, it is a must for the imagination, if you want to completely escape in to some amazing fiction, that play like films in your head, please read this book, I cannot recommend this book enough. Another favourite of mine, in a sort of similar vein would be The Famished Road by Ben Okri.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 July 2013
For a beginner of Murakami's work or old timer, the wind up bird chronicle is one of his greatest books in my opinion. Beautifully written and amazing story that will leave you sad to finish the last page.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2009
This book is often considered Murakami's masterpiece, and is even proclaimed by some as one of the most important novels to have come from comtemporary fiction, and it easy to see why it is held in such high regard. It haunts you from page one, and fails to relent even after the book has been finished. You follow the story of Toru Okada, a man who he consider's to be an everyday man, nothing special, ordinary looking, living ordinary days that, as you will find out, meld together to create patterns of dysfunction and alienation that even he does not initially know about. He has lost his job, and his cat has disappeard, which has unsettled his wife - who is slowly disappearing herself. In the search for his wife (and his Cat, of course) he is introduced to a bizarre assortment of characters who each have a story to tell, who may or may not be taking him for a ride, leading him in the right or wrong direction throughout.
These strange characters who include psychic sisters by the names of Malta and Creta, an unhinged teenager, a war veteran who witnessed much more than just the massacres of the Chinese mainland, and an obtrussive politicion, are just the beginning in this tale that, coupled with Murakami's surreal landscape and unrequited style of writing make for an incredible walk down a path of self-discovery and enlightenment that effects much more than Toru Okada himself. Much more that this overlay of plot though lies a sub plot regarding responsibility. The attrocities commited by the Japanese Army in China are constantly brought to the fore, with regard to them taking responsibility for their actions, and in a similar vein, Okada must take responsibility for his actions during his life and face the consequences of his mistakes in order to come to terms with himself.
Everyday normalities are twisted into an acceptable everyday occurance, and astoundingly you will find yourself accepting them without question. Certain aspects will be left clouded throughout without any answer given at all, and yet it all seems perfectly fine. This is an exceptional piece of work, that I can see being taught to students in years to come as a prime example of how fiction should be written. Set aside some time, and let yourself be lost in Murakami's world where the unexpected should be expected, and come out the other side a different person. This is modern day fiction at it's very best!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2010
If you have ever been (un)fortunate enough to find yourself at an art college's graduate show then you will perfectly understand my forthcoming analogy.
When those who do not possess either spiritual or mental fibre try to make Art - especially visual arts and more specefically abstract art, they invariably fail miserably. What they present may 'appear' to have form, structure and substance, and indeed, it may do so in the physical sense; but in the intellectual, spiritual, philosophical, ontological sense it is really a shell, a superficial expresion - an allusion to a world they have seen in other's Art, in galleries and in books. It is an echo of Art, but not Art itself, it is fake, a copy. When writers too, try to engage with subject matter that is clearly beyond them, they invariably fail. It is a truism that that which we are able to render (both visually and linguistically) is a direct reflection of our inner-self.
What Mura-kami has given us in this work is by no means a small thing for it is the real thing, the crown jewels and not costume jewellery. It is 1990s Coca-Cola with acid and bite and not your local supermarket cola. He has struck a firm sign-post on the literary path and has created something of true worth and value, a rock on the collective pile of literary consciousness. Like so many of his other great works (Dance, Norwegian, Hard-Boiled) he openly displays his creative and intellectual greatness, frugality and fragility, brutality and his capacity for creative story-telling that defines and re-defines boundaries.
'Wind-up' is a surreal and yet very realistic journey that shows maturity and growth. I can't think of may novels that are accomplished as this. One of Mura-kami's strengths in this particular work is the interplay of the narratives (a mode he used time-and-time-again) and also the time-frame of the piece. Mirroring real-life, he introduces characters and then lets them go. This alone is worthy of praise. Quite why film-makers and writers feel they have to 'keep' the same characters from beginning to end (unless they get killed off), is quite beyond my comprehension. It seems such an artificial construct and altogether too manufactured and contrived to give any air of authenticity to the narrative.
This work will not entertain nor interest all (which is no bad thing), but if you liked Mura-kami's 'Hard-boiled' or you are a fan of Salman Rushdie, then I wholeheartedly recommend this.