IQ84

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

After last week’s review of the short story collection The Elephant Vanishes, I was left with wanting more of the Japanese author Haruki Murukami. Therefore today’s review will be on Murukami’s epic trilogy, available as one volume from Vintage Press for a very affordable price, titled IQ84.

This trilogy, originally released in 2009-2010, is Murukami’s most substantial work- it’s “the big one” for fans of his novels. It contains all the traits that his fans will love- a realistic storyline for adult readers that delves into elements of fantasy and science fiction, but it’s interwoven so neatly into the naturalistic tale that you barely notice.

The story is told in third person viewpoint, alternating chapters between the two central characters point of view: Aomame and Tengo. Aomame lives in the city, working as a fitness class instructor, however uses her “special talents” to do some dark undercover work for a wealthy benefactor. She is a loner by nature and lives life by her own moral sense of justice. Tengo, a child maths prodigy, about to turn 30, is teaching at a cram school and writing fiction in his spare time. He is also a solitary figure, whose contacts consist of a married woman he sees once a week and his literary agent. Tengo’s life becomes complicated when he agrees to being an anonymous ghost writer on a piece of fiction, that is perhaps not entirely fictitious, called Air Chrysalis, which brings significant social and political consequences. Aomame’s life becomes more complicated when she notices there are two moons in the sky instead of one. Slowly but steadily Aomame and Tengo are drawn further and further into danger and confusion, and towards each other.

This story is intriguing and slowly but steadily draws you in. The pacing is superb and Murukami is an expert at taking the normal and flipping it on its head within a second, and then back again like nothing has happened! Whilst the story is long, it never felt that way. The two central characters are perhaps not very relatable, but you like them and want them to succeed. You get to know the pair incredibly well throughout the course of the trilogy, and they are complex and interesting characters; with backgrounds that are explored thoroughly, giving the reader a sense of who they are and why this is so.

Some of Murukami’s novels are loose in structure and very basic in plot, however this novel has a tight structure and plotline, which will make it an appealing read for those who prefer a more focussed story.

This book is not suitable for children, and readers should know it includes sexual themes, themes of domestic violence, and violence in general.

I would recommend this novel to any adult reader, whether they are new to Murukami’s work, or are already fans of this unique author. IQ84 would be a great start if you haven’t read Murukami before.

 

Please let us know what you think below! Comments are always welcome!

Also, you will see some changes coming to the blog over the next few weeks that I hope you enjoy!

 

Happy Reading and thanks for joining us at TBBC!

Advertisements

A Wild Sheep Chase

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

 

Today marks the 5th and final day of the Five Day book review catch up. From here on in, book reviews will be posted weekly on a Sunday, as per the norm. We will be looking at Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase today.

 

I need to start off by saying that I read this book at the wrong time. This book is supposed to be the third part of a trilogy. Parts one and two are titled Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973, Murukami’s first two novels, only released in English for the first time last year. I thoroughly recommend reading the first two to start with, and then reading a Wild Sheep Chase straight afterwards to get the complete experience. I read this after reading some of Murukami’s later works (such as The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore) and some months after reading the first two. It was therefore a bit difficult to get into the flow of this book, mainly because Murukami’s writing style has diversified and changed since these first three books so it felt like taking a step back into a different headspace, which was difficult.

 

Having said that, this book has done nothing to diminish my new found Murakami obsession, and this is another great story. In this story our protagonist, the same man from the first two novels, is working in his small advertising and publishing firm, he has a new girlfriend with strikingly beautiful ears, and is continuing about his life, doing not much in particular. He is then accosted by a mysterious man in a dark suit, and is given a month to find a sheep from a photograph with a star on its back, with dire consequences if he fails.

 

The story takes our man on a trip across Japan in search of the Sheep and his friend the Rat. J from the bar also gets a look in. This book marks the departure for Murakami from his completely realistic and naturalistic books in Wind and Pinball, to the slightly bizarre and absurd. This is the book that marks the shift in style for Murakami. If I had read this directly after the other two, then the all out bizarre surrealism of The Wind Up Bird Chronicle wouldn’t have been so shocking. Therefore, as I mentioned before, I think it’s important that you read his novels in order, and somewhat close together. You can then note the progression of the story, as well as Murukami’s journey as an author.

 

This book contains more humour than his other novels, and is cheeky and odd. I recommend saving the trilogy for a rainy day. Keep the coffee and cigarettes nearby, and cook yourself a nice meal afterwards (the protagonist always does a ton of cooking in each novel- it will make you want to eat something too!).

 

Thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club and participating in the 5- day Blogging Catch Up Bonanza!

 

Regular blogging schedule resumes from next week so please join us next Sunday for a review of American Gods.

 

Happy Reading from The Boss Book Club!

Kafka on the Shore

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

 

Today marks Day Four of our Five Day Blogging Bonanza to mark the return of TBBC. Today we will be having a look at Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. The novel by one of Japan’s greatest living authors was written in 2002.

 

This novel follows the story of a 15- year old boy named Kafka, who is running away from home. Mature beyond his years, Kafka trains himself physically and mentally to be strong enough to survive on his own, and sets out with no clear plan, travelling by bus across Japan. An avid reader, he comes across the Komura Memorial Library and makes friends with the enigmatic librarian Oshima and the beautiful Miss Saeki.

 

On the other side of things is an old man named Nakata. Due to a mysterious illness when he was younger he has a low IQ and therefore simple way of living, and he can talk to cats. He embarks on a journey, assisted by a trucker named Hoshino who he meets along the way. What exactly that journey is, not even they are certain of, but it includes finding an important stone, and sealing an entranceway.

 

The story of these characters intertwine in such a way that blurs the naturalistic, realistic elements of life: ie a boy running away from home and an old man making his way across the country, with the bizarre, surreal and dreamlike qualities- including accessing the other side- whether that’s the other side meaning death, an alternate world, or an alternate state of mind is up to the reader to decipher. This book journeys firmly into the weird, and contains one graphic, violent scene that made me feel a little ill to be honest. However, apart from this one scene, the book is nonviolent. Murakami always includes a lot of the everyday things in life- a lot of descriptions of cooking meals, doing laundry and attending day to day activities, and then before you know it there’s a violent, bizarre or sexually explicit scene put in there and then it’s straight back to ironing shirts again. You would think this would be jarring or uncomfortable to read, but Murukami’s writing is so well done, and the pacing so perfect, that it poses no problem.

 

Of all his books so far, this contains the most definite plot and story arc, and would serve as a great introduction to Murakami if you prefer a structured story. This book, as with all Murakami’s novels, lends itself to multiple re-readings, as its rich in symbolism and hidden meanings.

 

Murakami has become one of my favourite authors, and if you’re willing to walk on the weird side, you will find his novels a truly rewarding experience. I enjoyed this book so much that I read A Wild Sheep Chase (by the same author) immediately afterwards.

 

Please join us for the review of A Wild Sheep Chase tomorrow.

 

Thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

 

 

 

 

 

The Wind- Up Bird Chronicle

Hello Everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, the next book for review by Haruki Murakami. The book was initially published in three volumes in 1994 and 1995 in Japanese. The translation I read, printed by Vintage in 2003, also includes two chapters that were printed in 1995 and 1997 that were written as short stories, but fit within the novel.

I’ve read and reviewed a few books now by this thoughtful author, after being impressed with his laid back style of writing, so naturalistic that there was scarcely any plot, and so relaxing it was like taking an afternoon stroll with a friend.

This book is very, very different.

The story starts out plain enough, and  focuses around the main character, Toru Okada, who is currently unemployed, but happily so, and is spending his days completing the household chores whilst his wife goes to work. Then his wife goes missing. Don’t be fooled, this is not a straightforward missing person crime novel.

After his wife disappears Toru starts to try and find out where she is, and in the process encounters a variety of characters that tell him their stories, including a spiritual medium who is lost, a young girl skipping school who may or may not have good intentions, and an ex-military man who feels he cannot die.

This book is not written naturalistically. At all.  It is full of metaphor and symbolism. The chapters are many and divided into small sections that you have to piece together. In this book there are alternate dimensions, dark, surreal moments, and even a sex scene that occurs between two people that aren’t in the same room (yes, I know, I told you it was weird!)

All of these bizarre, interlinking stories and characters do come together in some way, and the ending pieces it together in a way that is thought provoking and satisfying. As strange as it is, this book was a very interesting read, and presents a mystery that is greatly enjoyable. All of the bizareness is cleverly interwoven with the mundane, and the everyday activities of life. Toru will take himself down into a water well to think for four hours (why? you’ll see..) but then afterwards does the grocery shopping. There is a strong spiritual element to this story.

This is a very well written book that, if you choose to delve into it, will have you thinking about the bigger questions in life, and the nature of light, darkness, good and evil. It is greatly enjoyable, as long as you expect it to be strange, and are willing to go along with the journey. It marks a definite shift in Haruki Murakami’s writing style that certainly has me interested in what comes next.

 

This book contains mature themes and is suitable for an adult audience.

 

Thanks for joining us and happy reading!

 

 

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Hello Everyone and Welcome back to the Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at Norwegian Wood, a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, first published in 1987.

After reading (and reviewing!) Murakami’s recent English releases of Pinball, 1973 and Hear the Wind Sing I was itching to read more from this author, as the unique, laid back writing style provided one of the most relaxing and enjoyable reading experiences I’ve ever had. This story did not disappoint, and for those yet to give him a try, Murakami may be one of the best authors you try all year. Norwegian Wood is the novel that pushed him into mainstream fame in Japan, so may be the perfect one to start with.

The story is told in first person viewpoint from our lead character Toru Watanabe. It is 1969 and he is studying at a University in Tokyo. The book provides a casual picture of what student life was like in Japan in the 60s. The story details Toru’s daily student life and his friendships at University. However, Toru is a solitary, somewhat lonely character so it often details how he spends his day, occupying himself with books, music (including the Beatles of course!) and cafes.

There is more of a plot shape in this book compared to Pinball, 1973 which gives the book a nice direction and will make this book more appealing to those who appreciate a destination. Plot is not the point in this book however. It is more focused on the relationships between the characters, and what our lead character is contemplating in his daily life.

The central character of Toru doesn’t read like a character at all, it certainly seems like the author is just writing about his life in the 60s. It is so casually written you feel like you’re walking alongside Toru through Tokyo and spending a University year alongside him.

The book centers around Toru reflecting on his first love, an emotionally troubled woman named Naoko, and the connection they share over the suicide of a mutual friend from their high school years. Also in Toru’s life is a new friendship with a girl named Midori- hip, free thinking and spontaneous, who shares his lectures. The book centers around themes of friendship, love, sexuality, grief, suicide, loneliness and ultimately, the nature of human connection.

Where Murukami really shines is the emotional depth with which he writes. He writes with an emotional intelligence that is truly special, and casually incorporates the seasons, the five senses, memories, thoughts and music all into a picture that seems to require no work at all.

Don’t expect big dramatic moments, expect deep ones and enjoy the journey.

 

5 out of 5 stars- give Murukami a try!

 

Thanks for joining us and Happy Reading!

The Boss Book Club

 

Hear The Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Do you wish you could spend your life drinking coffee, hanging out at your local bar, smoking cigarettes and occasionally doing some writing?

If your answer is yes I have the perfect book to accompany and inspire you!

Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 are two short novels recently released in the one volume. They are the earliest novels by contemporary Japanese author Haruki Murakami. Their release marks the first time these two stories have been published in English outside of Japan, and they make up parts one and two of a trilogy.

Hear the Wind Sing is written in first person viewpoint from our unknown narrator who is home from University for the summer break. During this time he smokes cigarettes, hangs out with his friend the Rat at J’s bar, listens to music, and contemplates the three serious relationships he has had so far. Then he has another cigarette. That’s it. That’s all that happens in this book. And it’s greatly enjoyable.

Pinball is set three years later, from the viewpoint of the same narrator. He is now working in Tokyo, translating papers. He is currently living with a set of identical twins. He sets out to find his old favourite pinball machine. He smokes a lot of cigarettes. It also follows the story of the Rat, who has remained behind in the old home town and is struggling to move on from J’s bar. He is also smoking many cigarettes.

If you are a person who loves a strongly driven plot with peaks and troughs and build and twists and turns then forget about it, walk straight past this book and don’t look back!

If you are strongly against cigarettes and hate the thought of people smoking then you may want to put this book in a fireplace and watch it burn.

But if you are a person who can sit by a window and do nothing else but watch the rain come down for an hour, or if you like to wander about your local neighbourhood just to soak in the atmosphere, or if you love to sit by train windows and watch the world go by you will love this book.

This book is the equivalent of a lazy Sunday with your friends, drinking beers, or a long leisurely stroll. The narrator is interesting, you may or may not find him likeable but I doubt the author would care. It details the daily goings of his life and what he is contemplating at the time. It is one of the most relaxing, most enjoyable reads I’ve ever had. After the book was over I struggled to remember what had happened, or what any of it was about. This may seem bizarre but the book has a way of making you live the moment with the narrator. What comes before or after doesn’t matter.

This book is for adults, because it talks about adult things. There’s no swearing or adult scenes, no violence or explicit content. It just talks about subjects only adults would understand, like the feeling of staying in a town too long when your friends have left; when you break up with someone without having a conversation about it; or when you decide to go hunt down a pinball machine you loved three years before, just to see it again.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough for a relaxing read. It would be perfect to enjoy with a coffee at a cafe.The third book in the trilogy is titled A Wild Sheep Chase. I will certainly be looking into that next.

 

Thank you for joining us today at the Boss Book Club!

 

Happy Reading!

 

By the way, I’m not kidding about the smoking. The narrator lights a smoke on every single page. Every one…