The Wind-up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami

Posted 13 May, 2013 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 17 Comments

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TitleThe Wind-up Bird Chronicle
Author: Haruki Murakami
Published: 1994 Pages: 607
Genre: Fiction (translated)
Rating: 4/5

In Short: Toru Okada, a thirty-something unemployed guy, leads a fairly mundane life until his and his wife’s cat goes missing and his whole world is turned upside down.

Why I Read It: After I read and loved Kafka on the Shore a few years ago I started seeking out other works by Murakami. This one sat unread on my shelf until Ti from Book Chatter offered up a #Winditup2013 readalong over the past six weeks.

Thoughts in General: It’s absolutely impossible to succinctly talk about what goes on in a Murakami novel (at least the two that I’ve experienced), but what happens in the book isn’t what is important. You’ve heard the thought that the journey is often more important than the destination, and for The Wind-up Bird Chronicle this is absolutely true. Murakami weaves together several threads throughout several decades and even throughout several dimensions of reality, and as a result Murakami creates a world that operates by its own rules. I’ve heard people describe reading Murakami as “dream-like” and I agree–much of the book takes place during the everyday happenings but all of a sudden the events will fluidly slip into a reality that is questionable but somehow acceptable.

I don’t want to go into much more detail but The Wind-up Bird is intriguing, interesting, thought-provoking, fast paced, mysterious, complicated, multilayered, open to interpretation, and touching. It has been a long time since I’ve been so pulled into a book and read it at every chance I can find. The chapters are short and there were enough cliffhangers for me to read just one more chapter–just one more chapter. If you’re wondering about why I didn’t rank this one higher than a 4/5: I did feel that Wind-up could have been a good 100 pages shorter, especially near the end of the book. At times it felt as though Murakami was reaching and stretching for a conclusion to his own story.

Some bits from the book:

“It was a narrow world, a world that was standing still. But the narrower it became, the more it betook of stillness, the more this world that enveloped me seemed to overflow with thing and people that could only be called strange…and everytime the wind-up bird came to my yard to wind its spring, the world descended more deeply into chaos” (125).

“OK, then, enough of this thinking about the mind. That’s why I’m here. To think about reality. The best way to think about reality, I had decided, was to get as far away from it as possible–aplace like the bottom of a well, for example” (231).

“I feel as if my every move is being controlled by some incredibly long arm that’s reaching out from somewhere far away, and that my life has been nothing more than a convenient passageway for all these things moving through it” (503).

Bottom [Several] Line[s]: Perhaps it won’t surprise you that I recommend The Wind-up Bird Chronicle with reservations. Murakami’s writing isn’t straight-forward and I’d venture to call him a Post-Modern style writer. While the writing itself is not difficult and the pacing of the book is quite fast and easy to digest, the larger pictures and themes can be very difficult to sort out. Wind-up Bird is one that will leave you thinking about the book for days and I’m not sure that one can fully come to any conclusions about the plot without conjecture or speculation. I love this type of open-ended writing because I don’t need closure when it comes to books but I can see how it could leave readers wanting or feeling unsettled. I do recommend The Wind-up Bird Chronicle but I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea. As a small disclaimer, there is a fair amount of sexual content and a small amount of graphic violence.

Have you gotten lost in the mind of Murakami?  If not, do I have you interested or running in the opposite direction?

17 Responses to “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami”

  1. He’s very difficult to write about/explain to others, isn’t he? I love his work. Love!! I need to reread this one, it’s been years. Great review!!

  2. Trishhhh, you’ve done such a good job describing Murakami here!! I never know what to say about him, because I LOVE him so much, but I can so easily see how for some people it’d just be bullshit, but I am SO DRAWN IN that it’s ridiculous. I’m talking dreams and also odd feelings like the world HAD actually changed a tiny bit and I was in the middle of it and OH MAN it was so awesome.

    Also, a small confession: I totally read this recently too BECAUSE you (plus others) kept tweeting about it and I was SO INTRIGUED! So, THANK YOU for that because it’s now pretty much my favourite Murakami (for now, anyway!)

  3. Ti

    You did an amazing job summing it up without giving it all away. I am going to write a short review, just so I can link it up to my review list but I still don’t know what to say. My mind hasn’t settled down yet.

    Thanks for joining the read-along!!

  4. Great review, Trish! I’ve wanted to read Murakami for a long time, but I’ve felt slightly intimidated. But everything you’ve described above sounds like something I’d be crazy excited about reading so I need to get on that.

  5. The first four lines you wrote, Murakami’s work sounds incredible. I’ve been meaning to read him for ages, but like Brooke I’ve felt intimidated – the copies I’ve seen on shelves look serious (though they’re lovely covers) and I suppose I just wasn’t up for something heavy going. But taking into account what you’ve said at the end and putting it with your first words, I’d really like to give this a go and just bare it in mind.

  6. I think it was Kafka on the Shore that I quit in the middle because of something to do with cats that grossed me out. I’m not even a cat-lover, but it was too much. I loved his writing though. But I’m concerned that this one has a cat in it too…

  7. I’m intrigued by Murakami, and also a little intimidated. Haven’t read him yet, but definitely want to soon. I wonder if After Dark a good starting point… it’s the one title on my shelf.

  8. I got hooked in really fast on 1Q84, the story was fascinating and complicated and not too much fantasy/alternate reality to turn me away. Also the audio-book readers were really great. I could not stop talking about it and recommending it to everyone I talked to both during and after I had read it. My library does not have an audio book for The Wind-up Bird, but I will be starting Kafka on the Shore in the next day or two, once I finish the book I am currently listening to based on your review.

  9. I haven’t read Murakami yet, but several of my friends have liked his books. I want to track one of his books down at the library, just to see what I think of his writing style. He seems to have very dedicated fans, but also a style that people either love or hate.

  10. I’m glad to know you enjoyed it so much. And I really am glad I read it. But, it was so ODD! :D Which, truly, you might think I would like more than I do since I do tend to like the odd stuff. Anyhoosie… My life is coming back to normal. Can’t wait for JUNE – it’s going to be grand.

  11. Nice Post Trish. I think you perfectly summarized Murakami’s writing: “intriguing, interesting, thought-provoking, fast paced, mysterious, complicated, multilayered, open to interpretation, and touching.” I read 1Q84 via my book group and have been curious to delve into another, so you have me thinking about Wind-up Bird. His a fascinating writer … very trippy.

    Sarah @WordHits

  12. Trippy is a good word for this one, along with all the ones you used, as wordhits commented! I like your summary a lot. I rushed through my wrap-up post this morning (So behind on blog stuff! Real life taking over.) and just read Ti’s and yours. This was also my second Murakami after Kafka on the Shore. Next might be IQ84.

  13. You’ve probably talked people into at least thinking about Murakami – I think I probably scared everyone off!