The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

This was my first ever Haruki Murakami read and I must say it messes with your head! You read things that make you question reality. Despite the book describing a lot of fantasy/super-realism it seems weirdly familiar which is what messes with your perception of reality and makes the book extremely gripping.

In this book the protagonist Toru Okada is an otherwise ordinary man with a rather ordinary life. He works at a law firm. First he quits his job then goes to lose his cat and then he even loses his wife- Kumiko. That point on nothing about his life continues to be ordinary. There is a big void in his life – during this time he meets psychic sisters named Malta Kano and Creta Kano who initially help him find his cat. He also receives some mysterious phone calls from women who claim to know him.

Other than Toru Okada there is another important man in this plot -Noburu Wataya, Kumiko’s brother. Toru and Noburu have a mutual relationship has been that of extreme hatred. Toru has always liked to keep a distance from Noburu but the course Toru’s life takes makes him come face to face with the existence of his brother-in-law. Noburu is a politician and has anything but an ordinary childhood. It has involved the loss of his sister, this man is loved by the public and has very strong influence owing to his political position. Yet this very same man has defiled a number of women including Creta Kano and his own dead sister.

When Toru went out looking for their lost cat he met a teenage girl called May Kahasara. She is far from an average teenager – she is obsessed with death, doesn’t go to school and has been a part of a motorcycle accident in which her boyfriend died. She indulges in a lot of profound thoughts about life and death and how the presence of death alters the meaning of life. This school of thinking made me take a break from reading and I took the liberty to go ahead and think of what the life and thoughts of a teenager whose life doesnt involve carrying out a lot of mundane tasks would be like especially when their thoughts are so different, strong and special. I would love to know someone like this. I think May was my favourite character in the book. She makes the book even more intriguing. Her job at the wig factory, the duck people and everything make May quite interesting.

After May, the mother son duo of Nutmeg and Cinnamon Akaskara come into Toru’s life. Nutmeg was a top class fashion designer and suddenly lost her interest in designing and started a new career of ‘fitting’ people. She is described to have a good taste in clothes and presents herself with great class. When she sees Toru she realizes that he can help her with ‘fitting’ people. Her son Cinnamon is my second favourite character. He is someone who has truly impressed me – being punctual to the dot, being prim and proper, conveying everything without words, the smart, organized young man who willingly took on the responsibility of the household when his grandmother passed away. Intelligent, punctual, well-dressed, emotional, a great listener – sounds like every girl’s dream to me! He adds a new dimension to the Wind-up Bird chronicle also because he is the one who saves Toru Okada’s life. His actions seem to convey how much he cares for the man.

Other significant characters/things that make this story intriguing are – a dry well, Lieutenant Mamiya, a psychic Mr. Honda, Toru’s mark on the face and how the historic events of Japan’s war relate to Okada’s life in a very convoluted way. The description of the war events like skinning a man or the killing of the animals to name a few is very realistic. The intricate details make the event spring to life. What still amazes me is how these historic war events juxtapose with Toru’s mundane life.

Overall a errm weirdly gripping read – fantasy described in the most familiar or known way possible. I am not sure I can quite describe what it is like to read this book – I would recommend you read it to go through those roller coaster of emotions yourself.

Overall rating: 4/5


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