- Paperback: 607 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International Ed edition (September 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679775439
- ISBN-13: 978-0679775430
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.3 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 918 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel Paperback – September 1, 1998
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Bad things come in threes for Toru Okada. He loses his job, his cat disappears, and then his wife fails to return from work. His search for his wife (and his cat) introduces him to a bizarre collection of characters, including two psychic sisters, a possibly unbalanced teenager, an old soldier who witnessed the massacres on the Chinese mainland at the beginning of the Second World War, and a very shady politician.
Haruki Murakami is a master of subtly disturbing prose. Mundane events throb with menace, while the bizarre is accepted without comment. Meaning always seems to be just out of reach, for the reader as well as for the characters, yet one is drawn inexorably into a mystery that may have no solution. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is an extended meditation on themes that appear throughout Murakami's earlier work. The tropes of popular culture, movies, music, detective stories, combine to create a work that explores both the surface and the hidden depths of Japanese society at the end of the 20th century.
If it were possible to isolate one theme in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, that theme would be responsibility. The atrocities committed by the Japanese army in China keep rising to the surface like a repressed memory, and Toru Okada himself is compelled by events to take responsibility for his actions and struggle with his essentially passive nature. If Toru is supposed to be a Japanese Everyman, steeped as he is in Western popular culture and ignorant of the secret history of his own nation, this novel paints a bleak picture. Like the winding up of the titular bird, Murakami slowly twists the gossamer threads of his story into something of considerable weight. --Simon Leake --This text refers to the Digital edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Amazingly long, incredibly pricey, wildly experimental, often confusing but never boring, Murakami's most famous novel has been brought to audio life with extreme dedication: by Naxos, a company that regularly wins prizes, and by a reader with an uncommon combination of skills. Degas is already a Murakami veteran, having read the audio version of A Wild Sheep Chase (Naxos), and has worked on radio, stage and even cartoon voice (including Mr. Bean). He catches the constantly changing mental landscape of Murakami's fertile imagination—which moves from detective story to explicit sexual fantasy, heartbreaking Japanese WWII historical flashback, everyday details of married life (cooking, shopping and pet care) and even the occasional burst of satiric humor. Degas treats it all with the clarity and calmness of a very deep, very still pool. Certainly not for everyone's taste or budget, but anyone interested in this important author will find something to enlighten them. Available as a Vintage paperback (Reviews, Aug. 18. 1997). (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Digital edition.
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the surreal elements in an otherwise straightforward story were interesting, with the slightly off-kilter tone of a david lynch movie or Pynchon novel.
But Murakami just couldn't tie it all together. Many times I found myself saying "what on earth was THAT all about" ... the story of Cinnamon as a boy, where he crawls into bed with himself, for example. Or Okada experiencing different "self"s and different "here"s. However, my main source of dissatisfaction was Toru Okada himself. In the midst of all of these dynamic and active characters, Okada just sits around waiting for phone calls, loiters around Shinjuku, and sits in his retrofitted well. Except for a few, noteworthy events which stand out- his battle with death his first trip into the well, his battle with the musician, and then his knife-bat fight in the mysterious hotel room- there is very little substance to Okada. Those three events were, for me, easily the highlights of the Okada Storyline. The image I had of May Kasahara standing at the top of the well asking Okada how it felt to die little by little sticks with me still. But the majority of the time, Okada just went around doing what other people told him to do. By the end, he wasn't even in charge of the clothes that he wore. He "searched" for his wife by sitting in a well designed for him in a house bought for him by the Akasakas. I felt absolutely no empathy towards Okada. In this surreal, harsh world that Murakami has created, Okada seems too pliable and soft for the protagonist's role. If people like Okada are supposed to defeat the Noboru Watayas of the world, we're all in deep trouble.
In the end, Okada is left where he started- waiting for his wife to return. Reading the book, that's essentially how I felt: I had just gone through an amazing, convoluted experience just to end up right back where I was when I started "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle."