- Paperback: 607 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International Ed edition (September 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679775439
- ISBN-13: 978-0679775430
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (878 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,748 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 an alternate Paperback 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 an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Part of my problem trying to absorb (and this is an author you *really* do absorb...He words sink into your bones, into your very tissue...one does not simply read Murakami, if you do, you are not doing it right....)Murakami is that I often get so enthralled with a single passage that my mind must stay and linger there for a great deal of time. Never mind that I have tried to continue on reading, my mind is still caressing a single passage over and over....so in effect, I often find myself having to go back and re read parts of the book....
Now this book. Many questions are asked here...and in true Murakami style, he leaves much to you, the reader, to decide the answers...I often get aggravated with authors that do this, but not with Murakami. He always ends the books in the only way possible to end them!
Yes, he has the moon and the stars in this book. He has good and evil. He has mysterious women....and he has a very simple, ordinary man, faced with what he knows in his heart to be true, even though everyone and everything is saying different. I think this book had a beautiful, fairy tale ending to it. It was so suspenseful in parts (I usually don't get my heart pounding so fast as this book did!)....How far would you go for love? How much faith could you put in what your heart knows to be true, even though you mind tells you it is not? Finally, the question is asked is all you gain in the end worth the price you pay to stay true to your own self?
Of course there are many other aspects to this book...Far too many for me to try to explain or even understand, but this is what will stick with me from this book for a long time.....
as is true with any Murakami novel, you should travel this journey yourself to experience all he has to offer....and remember, you *must* stop and enjoy the scenery...the desalination of his books are only that...the end....the true magic lies in just getting there.....
Nothing, is as it seems.
Toru Okada is a normal guy. But when his cat goes missing, and then his wife Kumiko follows shortly thereafter, what at first seems normal suddenly becomes surreal and odd. So odd, that Toru apends time in an abandoned well to sort it all out.
In the mean time, he meets a cast of very strange characters:
*May Kasahara - a young neighbor girl who thinks about death a lot. She has a very matter-of-fact way of talking and acts as a sounding board for Toru.
*Noboru Wataya - the brother of Kumiko. Toru cannot stand him as his political ideals differ from his. He's also a bully when it comes to his sister Kumiko. The lost cat is also named after him, which is odd in and of itself given that Kumiko and Toru really do not like the guy.
*Lieutenant Mamiya - an officer who witnessed the brutal death of a another officer. He is scarred over that event and has spent his own time down in a well. He has been tasked with carrying out a request in a will which is what brings him to Toru.
*Malta Kano - acts as a medium. Kumiko hires her to help them find their cat. She sees things, but she's not all that clear when she translates it to those who need the information.
*Creta Kano - Creta is Malta's sister. She too, has a talent but her talent is unpracticed and involves inhabiting people's minds. She is also called a "prostitute of the mind" and gets to know Toru quite well.
*Nutmeg Akasaka - the businesswoman who first sees Toru while observing people in the city. She is attracted to the blue\black mark on his face. A mark that her father also bore many years ago. Later, she makes him a proposition that he finds hard to refuse.
*Cinammon Akasaka - the son of Nutmeg. He does not speak but uses a strange form of sign language to communicate. He carries out the wishes of his mother but is exceptionally good at what he does and what he does involves looking out for Toru on many levels.
*The Wind-Up Bird - a bird that only certain characters hear. This bird makes a screeching noise and when Toru hears it, he is immediately reminded of a spring and how it needs to be wound in order to keep the world going. If you pay attention while reading, the appearance of the bird can clue you in to what is going on at that point in time.
There isn't a right or wrong way to describe this book. The story is simple, but the things that happen within the story beg to be discussed. The personalities of the characters, their history and how they all play their own part in the story is what makes a Murakami book an "experience" more than just a good read. It's walks a crazy fine line between what's normal and what's not and throws in bits and pieces to shake you up and to jolt you back into reality, or what you think is reality. It's the type of book that will have you asking questions for days, but somehow Murakami manages to bring it all together by those last few pages. Not to say that your questions have been fully answered. No, can't say that. But I can say that as a reader, I was satisfied when I turned that last page.
Murakami's writing is very accessible and simple to follow. Most first-time readers feel intimidated by what they've heard about him, but the writing is not complex. The meaning behind what is written though, can boggle the mind, but not in a bad way. His books have a palate cleansing effect which I find very pleasing. He challenges you to think outside of the box and if you give in to it, usually you're rewarded with a positive reading experience. Usually. There are those that are completely turned off by the oddness of it, and I understand that too. Murakami is not for everyone but what a reading experience it is!
Reading this book was like taking two Benadryls, drinking a couple glasses of wine and then having one heck of a strange dream afterward. You wake, but you don't wake and you sort of like it that way.
As with his other novels, this book shares many of the same themes but mostly alienation and loneliness. There are some graphic depictions of sex and rape but not as much as some of his other novels. There is also a particularly gruesome act of violence but it's brief and not drawn out so I found it tolerable although some of the other readers in the read-along found it hard to read.
Compared to his other books, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is probably one of my favorites. It's right up there with Kafka on the Shore but I found it much easier to follow than Kafka. It's long. Over 600 pages long but much of it reads very quickly. In the six weeks that we had to finish the book, I think most finished well before the deadline. However, it was maybe 50 pages too long. I understand that two chapters were removed from the English translation and that they had to do with Toru's relationship with Creta. I know it would have made the book longer but I wish I had those chapters now.
If you are intrigued and want to give it a try, do so with an open mind and give yourself plenty of time to absorb what you've read. It also doesn't hurt to take a week or two when done to just ponder the story. I found it very hard to focus on other books after finishing Wind-Up.