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 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 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 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 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.
on 8 April 2014
This is the 2nd Haruki Murakami book I have read, the first being South of the Border West of the Sun which is a beautifully written and engaging. I had high hopes for Sputnik Sweetheart and for the most part I enjoyed it - right up until the crucial part of the storyline, from there it just seemed to lose it - at least it did for me.
The last couple of chapters - in my opinion - pointless and I would have preferred the story to have concluded after the Narrator "K" left Greece.
I will read more of Haruki's books as I find his writing style flowing and absorbing but I after Sputnik I admit that it's with trepidation that I will start the next one I have lined up which is IQ84
on 10 July 2013
Murakami is an excellent writer and I always enjoy his books. The weirdness tends to frustrate me a little, but I enjoyed this story a lot, even though it descended into a kind of dreamworld about halfway through. For me, his best book is Norwegian Wood, which is straight mainstream, but this one shared a lot of the similar themes and ideas while crossing that boundary from reality to non-reality. Still, I'll definitely read more of his books and I would recommend this one, particularly if you're a fan. It's also quite short, so a good introduction to his style if you've not read any of his work before.
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 16 May 2015
Great service and the book was in excellent condition. I would recommend the book to anyone who like a good tale told well. Beautifully written and full of intersting characters. It was the first Murakami book I have read but it will not be the last.
on 3 October 2011
One of Alastair Campbell's top five books of all time (but don't let that put you off it really is rather good) I think the extra length of Norwegian Wood is a strength because Sputnik Sweetheart never seems to achieve the same dramatic weight as that novel. It is of course wonderfully written by Murakami and is a heartbreaking study of loneliness with the three central character drifting past each other, either disappearing into loneliness or expressing physical love through the aid of a doppleganger. I liked how it wasn't the narrators story yet he came to dominate the proceedings after a time.