The wind-up bird chronicle – haruki murakami. It seems like only a short time ago that I read my first ever Marakami epic, Norweigan Wood. Back then I’m pretty sure that was the only book of his that you could find. Now every other book I read is one of his, something that hasn’t really happened for me since Terry Pratchett. Not that these two authors are in any way alike, it was more a comment on how my reading has changed over the years!
But back to the book itself… The chronicle, as I shall call it for brevity, is not a thin book. Weighing in just over 600 pages it at first seems a little daunting. Luckily it was worth the effort. The story is based around Toru Okada who loses his job, cat and then wife in quick succession. All of this seems quite straight forward and sane until about a third into the book when an increasing number of psychic characters start to emerge. At this point the story changes completely, from a simple tale of modern life to an allegorical stew of meaning and stories within stories. Characters come in and drop out with surprising regularity with Toru being the main link through all of them. Sounds confusing? It is, but somehow even though it doesn’t really make any sense you find yourself hanging on every twist and turn, fascinated to see what happens and how. Dry cleaners, mediterranean islands, birds, a female ‘fitter’ and her mute son are some of the characters you come across, with situations ranging from a normal suburban street, through the Japan-Russia conflict of the early 1900s to an all-pervading well. Oh, and of course we get to find out that Toru likes cooking spaghetti as his main meal as he tries to recover his lost wife.
Then, as strangely as it starts, the story stops. Everything sort of makes sense and you feel like you’ve climbed a mountain and are looking out on amazing views below. Phew. A happy ending as only Murakami could construct from another great book.