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on 21 June 2015
I'm a huge fan of Murakami, so you're not going to get anything but praise from me. The simplicity of his character's voices reverberate. They are everyman and what I imagine everyman to be when I consider our needs and wants.

This book deals with the love of the one person that spans decades and remains eternal. It deals with the concept of a soul mate, the hunger one has for another person and the vulnerabilities that assail us all if we allow them to. I always feel that I walk in step with his characters, whether male or female amd care absolutely about their journey. Murakami seems to have no comparable writers, in my experience, able to carry this simplicity of style and description of the everyday, so remarkably well. Every page is a joy, and I hope you find this joy too.
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on 4 May 2011
So where would you rather be South of the Border or West of the Sun? South of the Border, supposedly drawn from a Nat King Cole song, is a place - Mexico, terra firma. West of the Sun, drawn from a Siberian folk tale is an unknown place west of where the sun sets. It is the stuff of longing, dreams and uncertainty. It requires a leap into the dark to get there. Such are the intricacies o Haruki Murakami's brilliant novel South of the Border, West of the Sun. The novel is said to be one of Murakami's more realistic and straight forward novels. But do not be mislead into thinking that the novel lacks subtlety and complexity. South of the Border, West of the Sun is a novel that is over flowing with powerful themes and cultural references that calls for a careful read.

The story is quite simply a love story. Approaching middle age, it is time for our first person narrator, Hajime, to reflect upon his life. He chose to focus on his time with lovers who came into and departed from his life right up to the age of about 37 where we join him in reflective mood. An only child with the ensuing loneliness that sometimes accompany that status, Hajime is attracted to girls and later women of a similar status which ultimately for him and his lovers creates an aura of the outsider. However, the main focus of Hajime's remembrance of things past is Shimamoto whom he meets at elementary school when both are aged 12. They separate when Hajime moves another town. Away from Shimamoto and as Hajime begins to grow into a young adult there are other women who enter his life and one of them that has some significance in the novel as a character is Izumi. Hajime eventually meets Yukiko whom he marries at the age of 30 she is 25 years old. He is welcomed into Yukiko's family by her father who helps him set up an up market jazz club. Over the years Hajime has quietly and secretly pined for Shimamoto. An article in a magazine attracts Shimamoto to the jazz club run by Hajime and there they meet again some 25 years after departing form each other. After this meeting one thing leads to another which brings Hajime to the point where he has to make a choice between his wife and Shimamoto.

Murakami is known for his post modernist tendencies and for writing novels with surreal like texture. In South of the Border, West of the Sun those features are not present. Instead we get a novel that is rich and subtle in multi layered themes. One of those themes is obviously love. Much has been said about the novel being about romantic love and so it is. But the beauty is that Murakami does not over state this aspect of the novel. In so doing Murakami manages to avoid being sentimental. What we get is a subtle and touching love story about two outsiders. Long before the two protagonists explicitly reveal their love for each other, Murakami highlights their love by exploring the idea of creativity. He has Hamime tell Shimamoto, who believes that she has not created anything, that she has created things she cannot see - things such as feelings which despite the pain feelings can cause they nonetheless stay with you for ever.

Ironically, it is those feeling of love that can cause loneliness and a marked sense of isolation. After separating from Shimamoto, Hajime becomes increasingly a loner despite the fact that he meets other young women. He drifts uncertain of what he wants from life. After drifting in his 20's, Hajime eventually marries Yukiko and comes to believe that he has found happiness within the context of a family. Murakami seems to be suggesting that we cannot live in isolation outside the confines of `normal' society. Happiness is to be found in the ordinary and the mundane.

In this novel place and change also have a significant impact upon people. People meet form relationships of one kind or another and then move away to another place. Years intervene and people change physically and in other ways. When Hajime meets an old school friend, years later, part of their conversation runs thus: "He started to talk about the two years he had worked in Brazil. You won't believe he said but I ran across someone form my junior high school in Sao Paulo of all places." ... "When he left he clapped me on the shoulder. Well the years change people in many ways right?" Here Murakami is effectively writing about some of the ramifications of modern life upon the individual.

Proust certainly has left his mark on many writers by explicating making time and memory major themes in his great novel. It is now so common to say that this or that novel is about memory. So whilst I don't want to dwell on what has become a hackneyed theme of many novels, nonetheless, this novel to some extent is basically an act of remembrance. It is also about time. How time passes sometimes leaving a void in our lives and how years later we try to recapture that lost time. During one of Hajime's and Shimamoto's meetings they look at a photograph and the narrator comments: "the photograph brought a pain to my chest. It made me realize what an awful amount of time I had lost. Precious years that could never be recovered, no matter how much I struggled to bring them back."

One final point worth making is that Hajime's narrative is one that reveals how he arrived at redemption at the mercy of his wife`s, Yukiko, forgiveness. The retrospective narrative is brought right up to date on a deterministic and pessimistic note. The lesson for Hajime seems to be we are who we are and there is no point in chasing dreams.
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on 30 May 2015
My first read at Murakami, found it hard initially to feel any connection to the main character as he came across as so selfish and self absorbed. The book ended quiet abruptly and at the time thought to myself... "hmm i'm not sure I liked or 'got' that book". Surprisingly, I keep thinking about the book as few days later, and on reflection think the reason I disliked the character was that we can all have a bit of his selfish traits in us sometimes. So it looks like I "got" the message after all!
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on 5 August 2014
The contents of South of the Border, West of the Sun feel so much bigger than the 200 pages into which they fit. A scope is delivered that is sprawling, yet it is concisely delivered through one man's moral struggles and experience in living life. Haruki Murukami continues to astound me years after I first fell in love with his words. This book is another shining example of an author who crafts such believable, deep characters and hints at something magical in how people can connect with one another. The nostalgia that the lead character feels rings true, and his inner torment resounds believably through the pages. As with every novel I've read by Murakami, when I came to the final page I was left feeling as though something was missing. My reviews cannot do this author justice, he is magnificent.
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VINE VOICEon 6 March 2013
...but not Murakami's best. I did enjoy this tale of one mans love, confusion and borderline self- obsession, but I have to say, it is not the best story from Murakami. If you want a suitable introduction to his work (and by the large, it is excellent) then I would recommend Norwegian Wood a lot more. This book is simple (dare I say it semi-autobiographical?), and I found it easy to read and quick to finish, but it did not make me feel like Norwegian Wood did. I would still recommend it, but perhaps for a Murakami fan (like myself).
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on 19 September 2017
First Murakami book I read. Love his style of writing and his brilliant descriptions, he is a genius. His books make you want to read on although they are a bit on the dark side and the endings are a bit abrupt leaving the reader wondering. I am hooked on Murakami books now and will definitely read more. Sexually explicit and a bit depressing but the writing is good.
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VINE VOICEon 6 October 2012
This is just fantastic. Murakami is an amazing writer, able to capture in written form, aspects of life that we often take for granted. He is a very observant person that is for sure, and a strong talent, able to convey those observations in a captivating way for a reader.

Having now read most of his books, this has to be my favourite of his. I won't repeat what a number of other reviewers have done by describing what the story is about, but if you're someone who has experienced a close relationship with someone, and had difficult decisions to make in life, this will especially strike a chord with you. I found myself emotionally drawn in to the story, and when finished, was left wanting more.

Enthralling from start to finish. A short but very sweet story. A great introduction to Murakami if you have not read any of his novels as yet.
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on 30 March 2017
Once I started reading I got through the book in a matter of days. Each step along of the way I was completely trapped in the feelings and emotions of our protagonist. Even though it hurt to read on at times there was a constant beauty that couldn't be ignored.
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on 31 January 2011
Murakami's book offers a sombre description of a post-war generation in Japan; he also depicts a male crisis of identity effectively. How empty can a life be without true love? How innocent and idealistic can our first impression of love be? How much do we change through time? How true is our memory? "South of the Border, West of th Sun" is an account of a man and a woman who once were children, and love each other. The poetical descriptions of love are superbly combined with a suspense which Murakami does know how to create.... in the end nothing remains the same, everything is like a dream... Was it real, one may wonder......
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on 13 June 2013
This is the second Murakami novel I have read, the other being 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles' which I greatly enjoyed. This is a tightly-written short novel which I found very moving and thought-provoking. Although always interesting, it is a difficult read because it packs so many thoughts and emotions into so few words. The apparent simplicity and directness of the language makes you think it is a light story but it is actually deep and quite dark. It is an atmospheric account of love found, lost, found again and finally lost again. If you like Marakami already, you'll love this book. If you don't, give it a try and see if you succumb to his style of story-telling.
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