The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

Book - 1998 | 1st Vintage International ed.
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a tour de force--and one of Haruki Murakami's most acclaimed and beloved novels.

In a Tokyo suburb, a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat--and then for his wife as well--in a netherworld beneath the city's placid surface. As these searches intersect, he encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists. Gripping, prophetic, and suffused with comedy and menace, this is an astonishingly imaginative detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets from Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria during World War II.
Publisher: New York : Vintage International, 1998.
Edition: 1st Vintage International ed.
ISBN: 9780679775430
0679775439
Branch Call Number: Fic
Characteristics: 607 p. ; 21 cm.
Additional Contributors: Rubin, Jay 1941-

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PimaLib_ChristineR Jul 06, 2020

This was not my cup of tea. I had previously read Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and wanted to try more, but this wasn't it. What The Wind-Up Bird has in common with that novel is a dreamlike quality, a detachment from the action, but here the detachment applied to even cause and effect, and so it was unclear why I should care about any of it since there was no reason for anything particular to happen. There were whole sections that could have been compressed or completely left out and it wouldn't have affected the novel at all.

What I did enjoy were the historical aspects, the invasion of Manchuria and the collapse of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, and the dreamlike crossover between history and fiction, which reminded me of Tim O'Brien's search for truth through fiction. And I will give Murakami his characters. Whether they passed through our view only briefly, or held large portions of the text together like the teenager May, dealing with the death of her boyfriend, or the protagonist's evil brother-in-law Noboru Wataya, each character was memorable and unique. Perhaps if this had been sold in the three installments, as it was in Japan, I would have enjoyed it more, as magical-realism yet slice-of-life vignettes. Instead, I was left with a handful of interesting characters and not much else.

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candyswart
Jun 10, 2020

I would love to read this book but the copy I have from the Christchurch library has such small print that I cannot.
A pity as I love his work and have not found this problem with his other books.

It has a black and red cover, not the cover pictured above of the cat's tail. Maybe there is a difference. I will find out.

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beetlebaily
Apr 16, 2020

I have read a number of Murakami's novels and I loved every one of them. This one is more complex. I admit, I did not understand it. I am not talking about understanding the magic realism parts of the novel. In all his other works, I really loved them without needing to explain them or "understand" them. This one has me baffled. I enjoyed reading it. It was gripping in the usual Murakami way. Wonderfully written. But...
So, I have not rated this book. I can't.
The following review I read in the NY Times expresses my frustrations with this book better than I can;l
https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/97/10/26/daily/bird-book-review.html

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FPL_ChelseaJ
Dec 16, 2019

If you enjoy enigmas, if you like to gather your own meanings, if you like to re-read. From cooking spaghetti to a history of war to the bottom of a well to a lost cat. You didn't know these things were connected, but they are.

IndyPL_CarriG Oct 16, 2019

Deadpan humor, magical realism, and a main character who is chronically unsure of himself and everything around him except for one thing - I'm glad I chose this as my first Haruki Murakami novel to read.

Toru Okada is living a rather boring life at present - he'd just quit his job in a law firm after realizing that's not what he wants to do with his life, and is waiting for inspiration to strike him on what to do next. When all of a sudden the cat adopted by he and his wife disappears. This sets off a chain of improbable and strange events that leave the readers asking a lot of questions. This is probably not the novel for you if you like everything tied up in a neat bow. I found it interesting that though Murakami is Japanese, this novel felt more familiar than other translated works I have read - after reading it I found out that Murakami is a huge fan of western popular fiction and likely drew a lot of influence from our canon. So this is a great place to start if you are interested in dipping your toe in the water of Japanese fiction but are worried it will be too different.

While Murakami's directions sometimes left me scratching my head, they also made me think. Yet not in the way you would if it were a difficult read - it's not. It's not hard to read - it's hard to try to piece it together, to figure out why Murakami put this in or that there, and understand the entire plot all together. It kept my on my toes in an enjoyable way.

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Joeybiomaster
Sep 26, 2019

I never know how to describe the plot of Murakami's books and it's interesting to see the plot description at the back of his books. It's like the publisher said "yup, we don't know how to describe this book either. Let's just take some scenes from the book and describe it in the vaguest way possible." And if you were to read said summary, you would be expecting one thing from his books only to find the book led you somewhere completely different. I guess what I am trying to say is don't limit your expectations to the back of his books, don't limit your expectations to the words of someone else, just pick up the book and read it. If I were to describe this book to you, I would lower it's value, make it sound boring, or raise your expectations too high. I really enjoyed this book and I never know what the author is planning or thinking.

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jmmReads
Sep 16, 2019

Interesting writing style, though, reading a translation, it's hard to tell how much of that is the original author's doing and how much is the translator's.

The cover has words like 'dreamlike', but to borrow a concept from C.S Lewis in the Narnia series, it's your dreams, not your daydreams. Your dreams that are always vaguely illogical and slightly threatening, where you know that you are definitely not in control and the events don't make rational sense. In that regard, this book and storyline are dreamlike. By the halfway mark, it felt as though the protagonist was an empty vessel that others were pouring their stories into. I kept waiting for him to develop a personality of his own, even if it was bits and pieces of the personalities of the other people he encountered. I'm still waiting.

I'm not looking forward to my bookclub meeting where it will be all too tempting to try to find a deeper meaning; perhaps suggesting that this is an allegory about the then-contemporary times in Japan. In fact, the only deeper meaning that I could see is that the author seemed convinced that sex could be used as a yardstick for how deeply someone felt an emotion. I might have to tape my mouth shut to keep from noting that there is no 'there' there.

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amymcnamara1993
Jul 30, 2019

Simple, yet beautiful writing. Felt long towards the end without a huge plot payoff.

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anhovq
May 04, 2019

Haruki Murakami is the master of static characters with unresolved internal conflicts. Perhaps, the realistic depiction of how problems are chronic is why I’m so fond of his work. The character’s journey doesn’t feel rushed nor awkwardly forced into a six-stage plot structure. The climax can ripple and introduce other climaxes. Falling action can be non-existent, leading to more complicated journeys. Murakami’s characters can be simply put as over-thinkers who spend all their time pondering rather than doing anything. Hence, that prompts inpatient book critics to bomb the reviews with words like “mundane,” “boring,” and “plot-less.” Frankly, if these egotistical critics can just sit down and enjoy the slow and serene flow of the characters’ thoughts, they can appreciate the beauty of human nature and life.

May Kasahara's obsession with death is somewhat profound and intriguing. While Toru is voluntary down in a dried-up well to do some thinking, May hides the rope ladder that can get Toru out of the well. The fact his life depends on her excites her obsession with death. She asks, “If people lived forever - if they never got older - if they could just go on living in this world, never dying, always health - do you think they’d bother to think hard about things, the way we’re doing now? (Murakami, 258)” Her seemingly naive words strike me as an answer to my predicament. “If there were no such things as death, that complicated thoughts - philosophy, psychology, logic, religion, religion - would never come into this world (258).”

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jcwareham
Apr 11, 2019

Murakami reliably enchants me on every page of every book. This was my first read of his. I love the warmth and deeply personal details of the thoughts and actions and moods of his characters, perhaps especially the young ones working out their relationships. The sort of magical realism serves to draw me into the story's reality and engage my mind and heart with the humanity Murakami presents to the reader. I keep reading him and have yet to be disappointed.

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PimaLib_ChristineR Jul 06, 2020

Since coming to Manchuria, he had met any number of stiff-necked, fanatical young officers from his homeland, and the experience always left him shaken. Most of them were farmers' sons who had spent their youthful years in the depressed thirties, steeped in the tragedies of poverty, while a megalomaniac nationalism was hammered into their skulls. They would follow without a second thought the orders of a superior, no matter how outlandish. Commanded in the name of the emperor to dig a hole through the earth to Brazil, they would grab a shovel and set to work.

PimaLib_ChristineR Jul 06, 2020

The collapse of Manchukuo was imminent. Everyone knew this to be the truth, the Kwantung Army Command [Japanese Army in China] most of all. And so they evacuated their main force to the rear, in effect abandoning both the small border garrisons and the Japanese civilian homesteaders. These unarmed farmers were slaughtered by the Soviet Army, which was advancing too rapidly to take prisoners. Many women chose - or were forced to choose - mass suicide over rape.

PimaLib_ChristineR Jul 06, 2020

"Pessimistic...pessimistic..." She repeated the English to herself over and over, and then she looked up at me with a fierce glare. "I'm only sixteen," she said, "and I don't know much about the world, but I do know one thing for sure. If I'm pessimistic, then the adults in this world who are not pessimistic are a bunch of idiots."

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sky123
Feb 11, 2015

It was not one of those strong, impulsive feelings that can hit two people like an electric shock when they first meet, but something quieter and gentler, like two tiny lights traveling in tandem through a vast darkness and drawing imperceptibly closer to each other as they go. As our meetings grew more frequent, I felt not so much that I had met someone new as that I had chanced upon a dear old friend. p.223

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Pnpclear
Jun 28, 2015

Pnpclear thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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