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Kafka on the Shore

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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • ISBN-10: 1400044812
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400044818
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (548 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages, and the most recent of his many international honors is the Jerusalem Prize, whose previous recipients include J. M. Coetzee, Milan Kundera, and V. S. Naipaul.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

365 of 384 people found the following review helpful By C. H. Osborne on July 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I guess from other reviews that I'm not the typical reader of this sort of book - some of the other reviews go way over my head, which might suggest that the book did, too. Unlike many readers, I'd never heard of this author, nor have I studied philosophy or metaphysics, nor did I appreciate any of the clever references to other works which I gather are in the book. So my review is based on the book alone without any external context or any expectations of this author at all. I picked the book up more or less at random from a public library shelf because it looked interesting.

The first half of the book had me sitting up reading in the early hours of the morning, it was that good. I'd never read anything quite like it and was fascinated to see where the story was going to go. I appreciated the book's readability too, with the author conveying complex ideas without getting bogged down in complex language. Some of the reviews I've read subsequently are less readable than the book itself, so don't be put off by thinking you need to be an intellectual to read it.

Unfortunately I felt that after the first half of the book, the sense of wonder began to fade and instead of being content to be caught up in the plot I was starting to wonder where it was going to go and how long it was going to take to get there. To be honest I hung in there for the last quarter mainly because I didn't want to abandon the book having come this far. It's not that the writing deteriorated or that the storyline wasn't still interesting, more that the characters weren't developing any further and it looked like they weren't going to. The plot just played itself out and I lost that "Wow, I can't wait to see what happens next" feeling.
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78 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Sheetal Bahl on August 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
I finished this book quite some time ago, and it's taken me a while to review this book, because frankly, I've just been at a loss of how to write a lucid and representative review. I felt tongue-tied and "writer blocked" in the afterglow on this spellbinding adventure. Murakami took me to realms I have not reached with books for a while now, and which I am still gently floating on. I finally did decide to write though, because I think it's imperative for me to document how I felt about the book and really try and impress upon other bibliophiles that they must, must, MUST read this!

The two fundamental themes of the book are simple, and in fact, quite clichéd: one can run, but not escape, and life needs to be dealt with; and that every person has a purpose and a destiny to fulfil. The way these themes are illustrated is, however, far from simple, and to do so, Murakami shares with us two tales: one of a precocious fifteen-year old boy who leaves home in an attempt to escape his oppressions, and the other of a mentally challenged old man who needs support on many fronts to just go through daily life, but has curious abilities like being able to converse with cats and making fish rain from the sky. Both the protagonists undertake fascinating physical and metaphysical journeys which inevitably weave together at the end, but in very unusual and interesting ways. Accompanying them, or somehow associated with them, on these journeys are just a handful of other characters, who while clearly playing a supporting role, are essential to the "success" (as in some logical conclusion) of the journeys, and are enchanting in their own right.
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186 of 215 people found the following review helpful By C. E. Stevens VINE VOICE on November 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Kafka on the Shore is at once familiar and unfamiliar to readers of past Murakami stories: in story and in plotting it is reminiscent of past works of Murakami; the Tamura Kafka storyline is in many ways a re-telling of Hard-Boiled Wonderland, and the split narrative style also reminds one of that book. Indeed, many times throughout the book I found myself thinking that Kafka on the Shore felt like a kind of summation of Murakami's works, all the way from Hear the Wind Sing through After the Quake in terms of style and plot elements.

Despite the many familiar elements, there are several significant deviations from the usual formula, starting with the protagonist Tamura Kafka. Unlike the typical 30-something "everyman" familiar to readers of Murakami, Kafka on the Shore features the young and proactive Tamura Kafka and to the best of my knowledge is the first of Murakami's novels to be written half in the third person, giving Murakami a bit more freedom in telling this tale from different characters' perspectives. More important than narrative technique was Murakami's approach to the story: whereas many of Murakami's novels are full of a sense of loneliness and a feeling that the characters are chasing after something which is already beyond their reach, Tamura Kafka is very much in charge of his own destiny as his choice at the climax of the novel indicates.

Although Kafka on the Shore started off wonderfully, by the second half of the book, the plot became unusually linear and predictable for a Murakami novel. The Nakata/Hoshino plotline in particular was cryptic without the scope or wonder of Wind-Up Bird, for example. Oshima, one of the most interesting characters Murakami has created (and that's saying a lot) is sadly underused in the second half.
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