2020 Reading Challenge: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

By Sarah Adams Permalink

Let me start by saying that this book will not be for everyone. If you like your stories tied up in neat little bow, if you like all of your questions answered, if you want a book with a firm grip on reality, then this book isn't for you. You are going to hate it. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami is one of those novels that is all about the journey and not at all about the destination. And the journey that Murakami takes you on is beautiful and tragic and confusing and tantalizing and mesmerizing and engrossing and maddening and epic. To put it bluntly, it's a masterful mind-fuck and I know I will be thinking about this book for weeks to come.

Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.


In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

Gripping, prophetic, suffused with comedy and menace, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a tour de force equal in scope to the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon.

Three books in one volume: The Thieving Magpie, Bird as Prophet, The Birdcatcher. This translation by Jay Rubin is in collaboration with the author.

As I read through the novel, my daily updates to my husband went a little something like this:

Page 157 and I have no idea what's going on.

Page 379 and I still have no idea what's going on.

Page 498 and I still have no clue what's happening.

And now, at page 670, the final page of the novel, I still have no idea what's going on. As strange as this may sound, this isn't a bad thing. I have no idea what I read. Most of the book didn't make any sort of logical sense. I have a million unanswered questions. And I still think this book was an absolute masterpiece. Before I read the book, I saw a review on GoodReads that stated, "A part of me wishes that I hadn't read it yet so I could read it for the first time again and be mesmerized." After reading, I could not have said it better myself. It's haunting. It's surreal. To quote the same reviewer (can you tell her review resonated with me?), "Getting to the end of the book was also like being rudely woken up from the most wonderful dream. And I didn't want this dream-like experience to be over." 

I know this review was vague, and spoken in abstracts, but honestly I don't know that this book can be put into words. Imagine being lost in a labyrinth of beauty and pain. Of humor and torment. A place where you are locked in a riddle but logic doesn't exist. You know you are lost but you aren't sure if you really want to be found. Once Murakami invites you into his world you will scrape and claw to never leave it. 


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