As one character says in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle the protagonist (Toru Okada) is a normal guy which abnormal things happen to. The novel starts out with Toru, after throwing in an unsatisfying entry level job at a law firm, searching (not very hard) for a purpose in life – or at least something half-way fulfilling to do with his day. Just as his life is going nowhere slowly, there is also something not so great about his relationship with his wife. Their cat has also just disappeared, which his wife sees as a bad omen.
Then the cast of quirky characters start to appear in Toru’s life. Most have a somewhat dark and bizarre story to tell. Maybe I am a bit slow, but as I got about half way through the book I started to realise that these people all had something significant to say to Toru (and the reader) and there were some connected themes spanning their disparate stories.
The book has many elements which are recurring in many of Murakimi’s works – cats, wells (the water kind – not sure if there is any other kind), men who are overtly passive yet at some level searching for meaning in their life, the bizarre (if not surreal), and references to music and popular culture.
It also ends, as many Murakami books do, with some aspects of the story resolved, but many others threads left hanging. Rather than being a frustration of the book, I found this added to its magic.
The novel is written in Japanese, but the writing is so captivating and the translation so good that I found it is an absolute joy to read in English.
After finishing it, I was left feeling grateful to have revisited this wonderful novel as a part of my journey through the 20 novels I had loved most when I first read them. Pity I didn’t feel the same about the next novel I read…..