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VINE VOICEon 1 September 2006
Personally, I am always wary of 'surrealist' writing (often self-consciously 'weird' and seemingly designed to confuse) but this compelling novel has overcome my fear! Its surrealism doesn't aim to shock or baffle the reader, but encourages them to suspend their disbelief, in the way that a child does (when reading about talking cats and the like!) The novel is written in a deceptively simple style, but carries as many complex themes as you are prepared to discover. It's a magical quest, definitely read it!
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on 12 September 2006
I found this book quite different to those that I would normally read, but was thankful for it. I was completely captivated by the first half of the book, but for some reason the second half left me wanting more from it. If you are looking for a different perspective on life, this book would be a good start to opening up your mind.
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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 1 October 2015
Murakami is so amazingly out of this world while at the same so intimately of this world. Many people praise his work, so I don't have much to add only that if you are looking for a specific plot/meaning, then this is not for you... does that sound confusing - to some maybe, but for me it is the beauty...... I have never read anything like this - give it a try!!!
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on 20 November 2005
This is the first time I have read Haruki Murakami. It is a fascinating book and I couldn't put it down. It transported me into magical situations which somehow were utterly believable. It would be hard not to love one of the characters, Nakata, who talks to cats and has a simplistic philosphy of life. In other circustances, I might have baulked at the violence and (perhaps)rather a lot of sex, but somehow these just seemed to be an essential part of the story-line. The ending, perhaps, is a bit moralistic but it doesn't detract from one of the best reads I've had for a long time.
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on 19 February 2005
Murakami is my favourite author & I was afraid that this novel might let me down, thank God it didn't!
As with other Murakami novels if you tried to describe the story it would sound like nonsense, but for some reason when you are reading it, it just makes sense.
If you enjoyed this then try The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Murakami's masterpiece!
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on 10 July 2013
Kafka on the Shore opens as 15 year-old Kafka Tamura prepares to run away from home. Living in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, Kafka is fleeing his father's twisted, Oedipal prophecy - a prophecy that predicts Kafka will kill his father, and sleep with his mother and sister. Although both mother and sister left home when Kafka was just 4 years-old, Kafka is resolved to ensure that the prophecy has no chance of realisation. He flees to Takamatsu, where he establishes himself as an assistant in the Komura Private Library, thanks to the help of the librarian Oshima. When Kafka's father is murdered, however, the threads of reality begin to unravel and time oscillates. As the narrative of Kafka's journey progresses, the plot is intersected with the parallel odyssey of the elderly Nakata. After undergoing a strange childhood experience during the Second World War, in which he fell into an inexplicable coma after seeing a flashing light in the sky, Nakata was left with a blank memory and the loss of his reading and writing abilities. Now designated mentally-imparied, Nakata's old-age is distinguished only by his strange talent for talking to cats. After a run-in with the mysterious Johnnie Walker, a man who murders cats and eats their hearts, Nakata sets out on his own journey across Japan - a journey that sees fish raining from the sky and a pimp modelling himself on Colonel Sanders (of KFC fame). As Nakata's and Kafka's fates look set to collide, it is clear that resolution for both cannot be achieved without further blood shed. And the closer the plot comes to its conclusion, the more reality loses its shape to the riddle of existence.

Kafka on the Shore is not a book that offers answers. After closing the final pages, I sat bemused for quite some time. This is a novel that takes pleasure in turning reality on its head, without explanation or disclaimer. In this regard, it also offers no resolution. Kafka on the Shore is a book that pushes the limits of imagination by twisting experience within the boundaries of reality. It is not set in a world invented entirely by the author's mind but is, instead, grounded in contemporary Japanese society and culture. This background makes the impact of Murakami's abstraction of reality all the more intense. As a reader, I found this abstraction uncomfortable - but not in a bad way. It is uncomfortable because it naturally sends you looking for answers, trying to work out why. But as the above quote illustrates, Murakami did not write this book to offer a simple plot with eventual resolution. Rather, Kafka on the Shore is comprised almost entirely of riddles, few of which are given any kind of answer.

This undoubtedly makes the book difficult to get your head around. I found, however, that once I stopped resisting Murakami's style with an endless search for the point, I could appreciate the utterly unique nature of the novel. As a big fan of magical realism, I was expecting something in the mould of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (the fairly standard model for all who follow in the genre). But Kafka on the Shore goes beyond the magical realism with which most of us will be familiar. Mostly, I think, because Murakami does not throw in his warped realities with a view to emphasising particular plot points or character traits. Instead, the warped reality is the point of the novel.

Kafka on the Shore is a novel that could have been utterly chaotic. Take a contemporary setting and throw in a handful of bizarre characters, a little Colonel Sanders mimicry, Oedipal prophecies, a haemophilic transgender librarian, showers of leeches and fish, and some cat talk. A recipe for chaos if there ever was one. Yet Murakami exercises complete and utterly masterful control over his creation. While the intersecting riddles are numerous and complex, the reader is never left with a sense that Murakami lacked purpose in every line and detail of the novel. He is, instead, constantly pushing his readers to their limits.
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on 13 November 2006
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami is an absolutely brilliant novel which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It deserved the highest praise by being awarded a literacy prize. From start to end, you are really absorbed in the novel and really cannot wait longer as to what sequence of events will happen next. The novel maintains high interest with reader, as it contains a well built up pace. Haruki Murakami has proved his class and genius as one of the greatest novelist to embrace his name within the literacy world. His style of writing and his simplified language is what makes this novel a pleasure to read.

The novel gives the reader an insight in the Japanese culture narrated in a superb and compelling story. The story runs in parallel with two key characters which is runaway teenager Kafka and a mentally deranged old man Nakata who is illiterate, but has an unique ability to communicate with cats. But they are key suspects for a murder committed. The key questions are they the real murderers. It is you as a reader to find out the answer. That is the general gist of the story, without giving too much information away.

The novel is beautifully descriptive about the main landscapes of Japan. It gives the reader a real flavour of what it is like living in Japan. You have the mountains, shore, beautiful buildings, huge highways and lively and ultra modern cities such as Tokyo. It feels like you are in Japan. The story is absolutely superb and enjoyable to read and you will be hooked to it for long hours. This is probably one of the best books I rate highly for my favourite books for this year. What I like about the novel is it styles, the way the characters are strongly represented and main plot. If you love and appreciate a good story, read Kafka on the Shore. I strongly recommend it.
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on 20 January 2005
How is it possible to describe Murakami? Perhaps indicative of such originality, its only against his own work that it seems possible to find reference points.
All the usual Murakami preoccupations are here - cats, teenage love, and those stark juxtapositions of imagined worlds and 'reality'.
Beneath the surface comparisons that undoubtedly exist with'The Wind Up Bird Chronicle', the book that most frequently came to my mind was Murakami's non-fiction work 'Underground' (witness accounts of the Tokyo subway gas attack.)
In every respect 'Kafka..' is of course a novel, and yet Murakami has the courage to stretch the boundaries of all usual formats. His 'non-fiction' references are openly discussed: Jung, Goethe, and of course Franz Kafka are all cited at various times; his characters weave themselves into an entire fabric of 'authorship' and an ongoing struggle for identity. This is hugely ambitious writing, and yet Murakami makes it seem effortless, and searingly relevant.
In 'Underground' Murakami discussed the dangers of a psyche devoid of narrative: devoid of the personal mythic structures that can so enrich our lifes, and our times. This too is a prevalent theme of 'Kafka..' It's characters oscillate between a sense of personal authorship (ie writing their own destinies) and the fatalist current of being simply swept along by events. This oscillation becomes the enrichment of the characters. They grow as both the entirety of their own worlds (the absolute authors)and yet also as smaller parts of a greater whole.

There appears almost a Gnostic vein to this: the entitlement of personal imagination (vision)to become central to our lives: to grasp this paradox of at once being 'central' and yet inturn feeling 'side-lined' - 'Writer' and 'Written'. It's a plight, or perhaps more rightly, a progress, that Murakami describes with moving compassion for all his characters.
This is a compelling book; an author brimful of authority and decisive ideas.
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on 10 September 2012
Please note my review contains spoilers. I felt after reading this book it would have been helpful to know in some sense what was coming up. But if you're a reader who likes surprises (as I am not!) then please don't read it.

A very strange, surreal book and a very interesting exploration of values, identity and accepting people for who they are. About a fifteen year old boy who runs away from home and establishes connections with other people at a library in the opposite side of Japan to where he has been brought up. He is on a quest though what he is searching for remains a mystery throughout the book. The most obvious things he is searching for are his mother and adopted sister who left when he was four. But he also seems to be searching for the meaning of life and to solidify his identity. He finds out that to be `the world's toughest fifteen year old' means to be able to open up your heart to life and love and to not be damaged in the process.

Intertwined with his quest is a young lorry driver and Mr Nakata who is illiterate and due to a blackout when he was younger has lost the ability to form abstract concepts. He refers to himself often as not too bright, for the majority of the time he can however communicate with cats. They too have a quest that is to find the entrance stone, to open it and to close it again. The entrance stone seems to be the entrance to a mythical place, a place in between life and death for those people who are too tired to live but who also are not fully ready to die. Time has no meaning there and those people who are searching for something more to their life seem to end up there at some point.

Once his father and his father's evil spirit have been forever destroyed, the boy named Kafka Tamura is able to go back home and resume his education. He goes back no longer feeling so alone and has established a firm connection with the library and the man he met there, Oshima. He also has found a family member, his sister, whom by coincidence also lives in Tokyo. Although still struggling over how to truly live, he takes solace in the painting which he found during his time at the library. He seems to be both the boy in the painting from decades before he was born and himself in the present moment. He will learn to live and love as the boy in the painting was able to and will continue his life cherishing his memory of Miss Saeki and the valuable lessons she taught him. Besides, he still has the boy named crow to turn to for advice if things go a bit pear-shaped.

This is my attempt to make sense of an almost nonsensical, beautifully whimsical adventure-tale which has constant references to allegory and metaphor and which ends up pulling you inside a chaotically ordered sandstorm of words and meaning.
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