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4.4 out of 5 stars247
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on 25 July 2007
I can't think of a book that I've read that has so many things going on. It is an overflowing pot full of ideas and sequences competing for your attention. I am still digesting the book - only finished it this morning - but it seems to me the book is about metaphor and writing. There is a world of meaning but it's fleeting and if you try to hold on to it you do so at a great cost. Ultimately, the task is futile. There is also a message about growing up and renewal - we must leave things we love behind and move on. We can carry memories with us. But memories that are held too tightly become like a weight too heavy to bear. Ultimately though this book probably defies synopsis and that is probably the point. It is about the 90% of our mind that we only glimpse through dreams or actions we can't fully understand. It defies rational explanation.
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on 23 June 2007
kafka on the shore is a dual narrative dealing primarily with kafka tamura and nakata, two characters who unbeknownst to each other are both on a journey to takamatsu. kakfa is fleeing from his father's oedipul prophecy (with the modification that he will also sleep with his sister) but he is also (almost contradictingly) searching for his mother and sister who left when he was very young. the other narrative deals with nakata, who after a bizarre childhood accident has been left simple-minded but has gained the ability to speak to cats. as such he finds part-time work in finding lost cats. it is his search for one of these lost cats that eventually puts him onto a mysterious quest. both characters find themselves on an odyssey of sorts whereupon they have strange experiences and meet very interesting characters.

the style is magical realism, but what is interesting is that the fantastical elements of the story never seem overly odd. even when we don't understand what is happening or why, there is a feeling that all the events are still natural - in fact very natural. there is a reverence for nature that emanates from the novel and a sense that nature is more mysterious, complex and powerful than we often expect.

this book is quite a joy to read - which is in a way unsurprising because there is an element of the book that deals with the joy of reading. kafka loves reading, as does oshima (a friend he meets) and there are moments where they talk about their love for books and the meanings of some books. as its title suggests the novel is full of literary allusions and it is interesting how the characters themselves anaylyse their situations using literature and its quite refreshing how quickly kafka recognises the oedipul nature of his plight. they use literature and philosophy as a means to further understand themselves, their feelings and their fate. for lovers of books these moments have added pleasure because they can relate to kakfa and oshima's appreciation for books.

as with his other novels, murakami's love for music permeates the book and plays a key role. the title is actually the name of a song that is central to the novel, and beethoven, specifically his archduke trio, also features prominently.

when i finished this book i found myself a little confused - i struggled to find its meaning... but then, i can't say i mind too much. this is one of those novels which you feel is very sincere and is meant to be just so. i couldn't want it to be any other way. if the meaning wasn't clear to me then that doesn't mean it won't be clear to another person. although, i also ask myself, why should it be clear? must the message of the novel be loud and clear like the moral of a sitcom? murakami has in fact addressed this himself, by saying:

kafka on the shore contains several riddles, but there aren't any solutions provided. instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. and the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. to put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. it's hard to explain, but that's the kind of novel i set out to write."

which is as good an explanation regarding the meaning of the novel that i can think of.

ultimately, the enjoyment of the novel lies in the enjoyment of reading it... the experience of it... and the feeling of being immersed in his world.
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on 5 November 2006
What a wonderful book, the definition of a page-turner. The novel is really two stories in one, and slowly they both loosely intersect. The first main character is Kafka, a 15 year old boy who hates his father, so he runs away from home to find himself. The other main character is an elderly man called Nakata, who is rendered mentally defective at a young age and then develops the ability to talk to cats (no really). So much happens in 'Kafka on the Shore' that it would be fruitless for me to write an overview, but what I really loved about this book is that you get completely lost in Kafka's journey and want to know what's going to happen next, and then the following chapter is about Nakata. At first you start reading faster to get back to Kafka's story but then you get engulfed by Nakata's, and the same happens again when you get back to Kafka - it's brilliant. I thought the ending was a little cliché at first, but once I thought about it, I realised it was just a return to the normalcy that began the book. Highly recommended...
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on 21 January 2005
For a book that has brutality and sex, and several deaths, this still left me feeling strangely calm and hopeful that long felt hurt can be resolved. For the most part the story moves along well, told simply, and full of compelling and sympathetic characters. When it moves into mystical, other worldly areas the best way is to go with the flow. I had never read this author before, suspecting he might be too weird for me, but this was wonderful. There is not a wasted word in the 500 pages, and the various plots are brought together superbly. Read it with an open mind, but definitely read it.
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on 14 February 2005
This author is smply breathtaking. Any readers familiar with his earlier novels will know what to expect in 'Kafka On The Shore' and they will not be disapointed at all. Murakami brings us typically enigmatic female characters, teenagers in emotional turmoil and the type of time/reality bending that he currently sets the gold standard for.
I believe that in this novel he has created some of his most entertaining leads to date, and has delivered a story that is almost painful to read with the sense of personal loss that it conveys.
I was particularly impressed with the authors refusal to provide neat closure on all issues. Murakami knows that life is simply more complex than that and always leaves certain questions in his books unanswered. This along with the semi mystical world he has again conjured up make this book absolutely delightful to read.
Explaining the plot of a book like this is wrong in a review, but suffice to say that if you have not read any of his work before, this book is an excellent starting point and I fully believe that if you get yourself a copy and give up a weekend to it, you will be very happy you did, and will probably work through his whole catalogue. I know of nobody who has failed to fall under Marukami's spell.
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on 27 January 2006
This isn’t Murakami’s best novel, but if you’re an existing fan there’s enough here to satisfy: that blurry merging of reality and fantasy; quirky minor characters (Hoshino is one of the best things about this book) and images and ideas that will linger after you’ve finished. Regular Murakami motifs and techniques crop up: twin narrative strands; a main character who’s a loner and seeker; a deserted cabin high up a wooded mountain; a parallel ‘other’ world…
As always, the prose is simple and the style engaging: it's alwasy easy to immerse yourself in Murakami's world.
That said, it didn’t quite come together for me this time. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was a hard act to follow, and Kafka on the Shore falls short. Around two thirds of the way through, the repetitious switching between Kafka’s story and Nakata’s story starts to tire as a format – more work on variety and pace would have helped here. And though loose ends and unanswered questions are Murakami’s style, too many ideas start running out of steam.
The somewhat American nature of Philip Gabriel’s translation jarred a little too – slang like “Jeez” and “Shoot” is peppered throughout. And the edition I read (Vintage paperback 2005) is riddled with typos. For example, at one crucial juncture (p289), Kafka asks Miss Saeki a vital question. There’s a big build-up, it’s an important moment in the plot, and then you get: “Do you have any chidlren?”
Chidlren?!
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on 27 August 2008
This was my first experience of Murakami, so I had no preconceptions when I read the book. I finished it last night and I'm still rather baffled so apologies for the vagueness of this review, but as another reviewer said the story is so complex and confusing a summary would be practically impossible.
My first thoughts on starting reading it: this is a massive book; the writing style is so fluid, the descriptions so clear, you can really see and almost hear the scenes described; I'm really going to enjoy this. That Murakami is an immensely talented writer is obvious. But the story... It's so sprawling, the dual quest story, and complex that when I was reading I was thinking about the notes Murakami must have made before he started, (I don't know if he works like this, it's conjecture) the chapter summaries taking him closer to the conclusion. I admired his scope and planning as well as his writing skills. Well, having finished I still don't know if there is a true conclusion, and I'm not sure he did either.
Ambiguity is fine if there is a point there somewhere, if there's something to decipher that's murky and open to interpretation, but really, what is there here to interpret? There's a hollowness to this. Quests should be universal, applicable to everyman. The themes here are ostensibly love, betrayal and revenge but very much of the characters, and not universal, so it's hard to relate. It's a shame, because the narrative does drive along at a cracking pace. I really wanted it to be great. Maybe I didn't care too much about the characters (aside from Nakata). I guess that's the difficulty of writing about flawed characters - if you do it too well their flaws supercede any pity or love you might feel for them.
I really wanted to love this book, and I will never forget it. Parts really made me think and his style is superb. But it's not a good story and the ending was such a cop-out I feel cheated, hence the three stars. I want to read more by this great writer though. (I saw the 'chidlren' typo too - naughty proof-reader!)
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VINE VOICEon 18 February 2010
I picked Kafka on the Shore up as the third book in a 3-for-2 offer largely because I liked the cat on the cover and the blurb offered a book where "Cats converse with people; fish tumble from the sky; a ghostlike pimp deploys a Hegel-spouting girl of the night; a forest harbours soldiers apparently un-aged since WWII." However after reading some of the reviews of Murakami on Amazon I thought I was facing some kind of Japanese Finnegan's Wake and the novel sat gathering dust on the shelf for a couple of years. Eventually I picked it up at random and I can only say that I'm very glad I did.

Kafka is a great, great work of magic realism and Murakami effortlessly combines his twin narratives into a work of compelling genius. Moving from the quirky to the gruesome, Murakami takes you into a surreal world like nothing I had read previously. This is without a doubt one of my favourite novels of all time.
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on 22 August 2013
This book is a beautiful masterpiece, it's about loss and guilt and regret and coming of age. It symbolises the past the present and the future. Some bits were grizzly, I'll never get over the cat flute bit. This book was tough to pick up and at times impossible to put down.I know that so much will stay with me. Today it was forecast to rain but was beautifully sunny but I dutifully carried around my umbrella all day and eventually it did rain. I thought of Nakata. Buy it and let it change your life a little.
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on 28 June 2006
What can the world's most brave 15-year-old boy do, being haunted by a most fearful omen cast upon him by his own father? The answer is so obvious: start a fantastic journey towards an unknown-subconsciously known destination, aiming for a magical place under the form of a library. If because of such demand cats must talk, men must die, lives have to be changed forever, strange ancient mysteries have to be brought to light, a dumb man suddenly feels the urge to become a better human being and a young boy has to learn the different mysterious paths of life, well .... Those are only minor details.

This book is a fantastic metaphor which I've found myself unable to stop reading. The way I understood the story is certainly different from the way almost any other reader will understand it and that possibility of multiple different interpretations according to each one's own life experience is, I believe, part of the brilliancy in which it is written.

The text is at the same time funny, amusing, tender and dramatic. The plot is intriguing and the lessons you learn during this journey, well, they are really up to you... All possibilities are left open here. The only thing that can not happen is to NOT read this book. Certainly a masterpiece of modern literature. At the end you enjoyed the art of a master, admired his work, delighted yourself with his mind and, at least for myself, wondered how fabulous it would be to actually meet this author.
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