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!

 

 

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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

 

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to the Boss Book Club!

Today I will be reviewing Gillian Flynn’s first novel, Sharp Objects. Gillian Flynn is the novelist behind the book/movie Gone Girl.

Before I go any further the first thing I will say is this book will not be for everyone. It is definitely an adult novel, which I would pitch at an 18+ age group. It is a thriller with dark content, including: child murder, self- harm, sexual assault and acts of violence. If you want a feel good story then please come back next time.

For those of you wanting to know if this thriller is for you, then read on…

This novel is told from first person view by our leading lady Camille Preaker, a reporter from Chicago who is sent to her home town of Wind Gap after a local girl is found murdered, and another is missing. She is given the task of covering the story of a small town under the threat of a potential serial killer. This will be the first time in eight years that Camille has returned home, and faced her mother Adora, and a stepsister Amma whom she barely knows.

This story can be read in two layers. The first is the mystery of what has happened to the girls and the suspense of finding out who the killer is.  The second layer is learning about our main character Camilla, a troubled woman who is struggling to connect with a family she had left behind.

I think this story has its weaknesses in the first layer: the mystery of what has happened to the girls. There are not many credible options as to who the killer could be, or attention paid to minor characters to pique the readers attention or keep them guessing. When the killer is revealed it makes a lot of sense, rather than leaves you surprised.

Where it has its great strength is the psychological depth of Camilla’s character and the others within her family. Adora the mother, Amma the step-sister and Alan, her step-father share a complex relationship that is thrilling, interesting and at times, disturbing. Camilla’s attitudes and thoughts on life are skewed and her sense of self is oddly affected by her upbringing, and the reader watches as Camilla slowly falters due to being back in the environment she grew up in, and tried to escape.

If you have read or watched Gone Girl then you will find some similarities here: psychologically disturbed characters and deeply flawed relationships between damaged people. If you enjoyed Gone Girl then you will likely enjoy this too.

I thought, three quarters of the way through the book, that in my review I would say I didn’t it. However, when I had reached the ending, I was satisfied. This is a thriller which did have me in suspense until the end, but it was a bit of a journey to get there. The closing chapters were great, and would make a wonderful finale… on the big screen! Which leads me to…

My overall recommendation is to wait for the movie. This is a thriller that thrills, but this can be achieved in three hours or less- I wouldn’t consider it worth spending 12+ hours reading. Apparently a TV movie has been announced so you probably won’t have to wait long! Also, because the book is written in the first person, the story fits tightly around Camilla, and her thoughts and perceptions on everything. The objectivity of a movie may give more focus to other characters, which will hopefully build the suspense of who the killer is a little better.

Thank you for joining us, next time we will be heading into lighter territory with a wonderful children’s book!

 

Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

Happy Reading Bosses!

 

Soul Music

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

This week we are back to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, this time focusing on the third book of the ‘Death’ section of the series, titled Soul Music.

This book focuses around the main character of Susan, a 16 year old girl who unexpectedly gets thrown into the family business, and reluctantly takes on the role of the grim reaper, dealing out death to those whose life timers have run out. The rest of the story revolves around a Troll named Cliff, a dwarf named Glod and a human named Buddy, three struggling musicians who inadvertently create Discworld’s first ever rock band. As the creatures of Discworld listen to rock music for the first time, there are bizarre, hilarious and even dangerous consequences.

As with all the Pratchett novels I’ve read so far of the series, they are a must for fantasy fans. This book however, will greatly appeal to fans of rock and roll and all things music. The whole book reads as an ode to the joy of music and the importance of live bands. If you’ve ever picked up a guitar, been in the mosh pit of a concert or struggled to find yourself the perfect leather jacket you will appreciate this book.

Pratchett has a wonderful way of taking a subject that is familiar and creating a fantasy/ alternate history as to how it came into being. In Soul Music Pratchett masterfully takes rock music and creates a whole new origin story as to how it was created. The ensuing adventure is imaginative, humorous and has elements that are familiar, as well as completely different. There are many moments of satire, as Pratchett gently mocks the ‘wannabe’ rock stars compared to serious musicians, the financial side of a musicians life, and the establishment that cannot deal with such unfamiliar and dangerous music. Also, there are more rock band references and puns than you could point a drum stick at!

In terms of characters, the wizards from the previous book Reaper Man make a reappearance as they struggle to understand what the sound is all about. They are a particularly endearing bunch of very wise men who have absolutely no clue about life in general. I greatly enjoyed the adventure of the trio of musicians as they strive to reach the top and the various obstacles that get in their way.

Susan’s character was complex and interesting, as she juggles her immortal responsibilities of dealing out death, with her humanity and compassion. I have to be honest and admit that for the most part I did not enjoy her sections as much as I did the trio of musicians, or the wizards. I think the reason for this is because she is written to be a very logical, somewhat abrupt person (which is part of what she has inherited and why she would do well as Death!) but this coldness made her appear rude and distant and she was therefore a little unlikeable for me. Towards the ending I warmed towards her more, but still appreciated the other story elements better.

This book has nice ties with Mort and Reaper Man which precede it in the series. I would recommend reading the other two first as you will appreciate the characters more, however it is not necessary to understand the story.

Overall, this book is excellent, and if you’re yet to take a look at the Discworld series I thoroughly recommend you do, I’m having a wonderful time!

 

Happy Reading folks,

 

See you next week on The Boss Book Club!

Mort

Hello Everyone and welcome back to the Boss Book Club!

Today I will be starting my reviews of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. The Discworld fantasy series consists of a total of 40 books: the first which was released in 1983 called The Colour of Magic. The 41st book of the series, titled The Shepherd’s Crown is due for release in late August/ early September and, as Mr Pratchett passed away in March of this year, will be the final book of the series. 41 books over a period of 30 years is an incredible achievement, and I know Terry Pratchett has a lot of fans. As someone who is completely new to the series and the author, I am excited to give him a read.

The first thing you have to decide when jumping into the Discworld series is where you want to begin. The books are divided into different sections including: Rincewind novels, young adult novels, science novels, ancient civilisations, death novels, watch novels and industrial revolution novels. You can choose to either read from the order in which they were published and read through to the present, or alternatively jump to the theme which interests you the most and read all the books in that section first. To help explain, here’s a website that has a nice flow chart of all the books, and the order in which you can read them by interest: http://io9.com/how-to-read-terry-pratchetts-discworld-series-in-one-h-1567312812.

I have a bit of a morbid personality so I decided to jump into the “Death” novels, which consist of four books, the first of which is called Mort. I opted to buy the hardcover edition which is beautiful. It’s hard to glean from the picture but the scythe and stars are silver foil so the cover has a nice shine when you move it in the light. It contains a little cloth page placeholder in dark blue which is great if you’re constantly losing your bookmarks, as I tend to do!

The story itself is fun: good old fashioned, giggle out loud, adventurous fun, which is enjoyable from beginning to end. The story revolves around an awkward 16 year old, red- haired, gangly teenager named Mort, who is looking for a job. He is hired by the grim reaper as his personal assistant. This book follows Mort’s adventures as he acts as Death’s apprentice and the various people he meets through this rather interesting line of work! The story is light hearted, and full of comedy and vibrant characters. It never takes itself too seriously, and the story moves at an excellent pace. It reflects on life and death, and leaves you feeling a bit better about the whole death business as it takes aware the fear and replaces it with a sense of humour and adventure.

An interesting feature of Pratchett’s work is that he does not divide the book into chapters, so you leave off on the adventure whenever you like (and that little blue cloth placeholder really does come in handy!). This book’s primary audience is probably aimed at young adult, but at 27 years old I still greatly enjoyed myself. At the end of it I immediately went out to buy the next one- sometimes it’s good to be late to the literary party, I now have the other 39 at my disposal without having to wait for any releases! I am greatly looking forward to reading the next one…

Have you read Terry Pratchett? Are you interested in the Discworld series? Please leave your comments below.

My next Terry Pratchett review will be up next Sunday night, and we’ll be looking at Reaper Man, the follow on to Mort. If you’ve ever considered reading or re-reading the series, feel free to read along with us!

Until next week, happy reading and welcome to The Boss book club!