340 of 361 people found the following review helpful
Murakami comes full circle,
This review is from: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: A novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As a longtime Murakami reader, I fell in love with his novels and short stories from the '80s and '90s, but became increasingly disillusioned as Murakami began experimenting with his style in Kafka on the Shore (which I still found mostly enjoyable), then on to After Dark (which I found completely underwhelming), and 1Q84 (which I honestly struggled to finish). To me, in these newer works, Murakami seemed tentative, off key, and honestly a bit "lost" ... failing to capture the intangible mojo that makes an outstanding Murakami novel better than the sum of its parts. As a result, I approached Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage with a bit of trepidation ... and honestly a bit of resignation--I was willing to give Murakami another shot, but if this book fell short, that might've been the last Murakami book I was willing to read.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki has a compelling mix of the "old" and the "new" Murakami. For the first time since Murakami started to alter his style, the story is told entirely from the perspective of the familiar "Boku" character ... mid-30s, lonely, detached, insecure (in this case, about whether he is "colorless"--this will make sense when you read the book), on an unusual quest to reconcile a past trauma and lost relationships. The book is strikingly free of the "magical realism" present in some of his iconic works such as Wind-Up Bird and Hard-Boiled Wonderland, and tells a much more "realistic" tale more similar in concept to Norwegian Wood, South of the Border, or even his debut novel, Hear the Wind Sing ... but with considerably more maturity and psychological depth, I'd argue. Unlike the "old" Murakami protagonist, however, Tsukuru is not passive ... cool, but not dispassionate. It takes some time and some prodding, but eventually he sets out to discover truths and right wrongs. His name is telling: "tsukuru" means "to make", and what Tsukuru makes is train stations ... places characterized by both order and chaos, where the ebb and flow of humanity is unceasing, full of people going to where they belong and returning to where they were meant to be. Similar to Murakami's more recent works, this tale is told entirely in the 3rd person; unlike his recent works, however, this tale is not told from multiple perspectives. Personally, I found this singular focus on Tsukuru (rather than a split narrative) enhanced the tale and allowed the reader to feel what Tsukuru is feeling and empathize with his quest for understanding and belonging. Although not "magical"/mystical, the tale is still mysterious; I am often vexed by Murakami's tendency for unresolved plot lines, yet in this tale I was satisfied with the ending (although I imagine not everyone will be) ... Tsukuru hangs on a knife's edge, yet is at peace in his own way. While I would've loved to have seen the resolution of the remaining key plot line, as Tsukuru himself notes it is out of his hands ... he has completed his own internal journey, regardless of what happens next.
To me, personally, this felt like the most effortless and natural tale Murakami has told since he started experimenting with his style in Kafka on the Shore. As such, it seems appropriate that in many ways Murakami achieves the most successful version of his new style by returning to his roots. This is the first novel of his in quite some time that I found to be a gripping page turner that I genuinely enjoyed and left me hungry for my next visit to Murakami World rather than nostalgic for past visits. The reaction in Japan to this novel has been decidedly mixed, however, so I will be curious to see what the reaction is in the west. For me at least, for the first time in more than a decade, I had the pleasure of closing a Murakami novel with a smile on my face, moved, thoughtful, and looking forward to seeing where Murakami goes from here. I am reminded of an excellent quote by Ursula Le Guin: "Finally, when we're done with it, we may find - if it's a good novel - that we're a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it's very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed." I think this statement applies well to Murakami's works ... it is often difficult to articulate why one likes (or dislikes) Murakami's writing as a whole, or specific works in particular ... it is the reason why reading Murakami is a very personal, and very subjective experience--one "feels" Murakami as much as one "thinks" Murakami; what moves one person will turn off another. Personally, I found Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki to be a success: like all Murakami novels that moved me, I feel a bit different from what I was before I read it.
Tracked by 2 customers
Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 19, 2014 1:29:16 PM PDT
Jill I. Shtulman says:
This is so helpful! I also love Murakami's novels and shorts from the '80s and '90s but felt increasingly distanced as he began to rely more and more heavily on his fugue-like style. I wasn't quite sure whether I was ready to take this one on, but after reading your review, I'm convinced that I do want to read it. Thanks!
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2014 2:02:46 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2014 2:04:27 PM PDT
Thanks, Jill! If push comes to shove, I still prefer Murakami's earlier works and I have a feeling that this novel won't work for everybody ... but personally, it was my favorite book from Murakami in a while: at least since Kafka on the Shore. If this book had come out a decade or two ago, I probably would've given it 4 stars ... but since it reversed the trend of the last few works, I decided to give it the full 5 stars.
Murakami also just came out with a new collection of short stories, and I assume it's just a matter of time before they get translated as well. Maybe (hopefully) Murakami's hit stride again?
I hope you enjoy the book, I'll look forward to reading your review if you post one!
Posted on Jun 19, 2014 7:55:09 PM PDT
Kafka on the Shore was the first Murakami I ever read. I started reading on a plane going to Spain. It was quite the experience. I'll admit: Kafka on the Shore was very slow to start, and I became bored a few times, but once things started to pickup, it was a breeze & treat to read. Then I read Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and I loved it even more. So I read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. It was good but not as good as Kafka on the Shore or Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I felt. So I read Dance Dance Dance and couldn't finish it. I tried Norwegian Wood and didn't finish that either (I guess I missed the "mystical realism" from Hard-Boiled Wonderland and Kafka on the Shore and Wind-Up Bird Chronicle). Right now, I just finished Book 1 of 1Q84. It's good but very long and feels like I am reading an episodic soap-opera that just won't move along with the story. I am taking a break from Murakami for now since I feel like Book 1 of 1Q84 could have been 35% shorter and still achieved the same effect. I could have read 2 books in the time it took me to read Book 1 of 1Q84. It's good to see that this new book, Colorless Tsukuru is good but what you say about Norwegian Wood scares me since I didn't like what I read from that book as much as his other books. It seems though, like it's a mixture of both and I intend to read Colorless no matter what. Thank you for a clear and concise review of what to sort-of expect.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2014 7:18:17 AM PDT
Thank you Mike, I think your comment captures what's interesting about Murakami: even (or, perhaps *especially*) for people who've read a lot of Murakami, there's very different opinions about what his "best" works are ... and for me at least, that's ok! I think a lot depends on which books you start with ... for me, I started with his earlier works, so I'm a bit partial to them.
As I mentioned in my review, I have a feeling opinions might be a little bit split on this one. On Amazon Japan, the 3-star and below reviews are almost equal to the number of 4 and 5 star reviews. A number of the bad reviews almost seem to be about fatigue over Murakami as a cultural phenomenon, rather than about this book specifically ... I'm guessing the book will be more positively received in the west, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see!
Posted on Jun 22, 2014 12:37:22 PM PDT
Wonderful review, captures my still-evolving feelings about Murakami exactly. I also am on the fence about reading this book, having also become increasingly disillusioned with his more recent work (_1Q84_ was almost unbearable), but _Norwegian Wood_ remains one of my all-time favorite books; based on your thoughtful recommendation putting this work in context, I'm ready to give him another try. Thank you.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 23, 2014 8:12:35 AM PDT
I'd definitely recommend giving it a chance. To be frank, I've been a little mystified by the last few efforts by Murakami before this book (I'm thinking specifically of After Dark and 1Q84) ... and equally mystified by the not-insignificant number of positive reviews of them. It made me wonder if I was missing something, or if somehow my "Murakami switch" had been inexplicably turned to the "off" position. After re-reading some of his earlier works and now this one (and being about a third of the way through his new collection of short stories), and finding them enjoyable, it has been a bit of a relief. Kind of like the protagonists in his own works, Murakami seems to be on his own journey of sorts ... who knows where it will lead, but for me at least, he seems to be back on track.
Posted on Jun 25, 2014 6:50:20 AM PDT
Thanks so much Charles! I think I make give this book a shot now. I read Windup Bird first and absolutely loved it. I followed up with Norwegian Wood, and that was also one of my favorites. I took a step back and read his running memoir and Underground, which reminded me how much I like his philosophies and style. I picked up 1Q84 and really enjoyed the first book, but by the end of the second was struggling to get through. I still have about 300 pages left and it's starting to feel repetitive in a way that I'm not used to with Murakami. I'm hoping to read Kafka On the Shore and Sputnik Sweetheart as well, but I may pick this one up first! I appreciate your review!
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2014 5:03:32 PM PDT
Thanks KGB, I still need to read the running memoir ... I struggled with 1Q84 too, and to be frank I'm trying to remember if I was able to make it all the way through. Fortunately, this book is much more concise, while still feeling nice and leisurely (in a good way) rather than rushed.
Posted on Jun 26, 2014 6:27:12 PM PDT
Ron Johnson says:
Thanks for your very good review. I wanted to like "After Dark," but it left me cold. I'm glad that you prefer this work to "After Dark" but I'm going to wait until more reviews com before I pull the trigger. I did, however, appreciate his writing style, which seems far superior to Best Selling Science Fiction.
Posted on Jun 29, 2014 1:03:37 PM PDT
Christopher Barrett says:
1Q84 was a bit heavy... especially compared to his earlier work. I think he hit his all time high with 'Wind Up Bird Chronicle' and previously 'Kafka on the Shore' was his best. I am enjoying this novel and how it takes me back to his earlier themes and style. It isn't quite going the more surrealistic way that 'Wild Sheep Chase' and 'Dance, Dance, Dance' or 'Hard Boiled...' did, but I find already much in common with 'Sputnik Sweetheart' and 'South of the Border...' Looking very forward to his next collection of short stories that was just published in Japan! Great review! Mine will be up soon as well!