Review: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a book I’ve wanted to read for years.  Haruki Muraki is one of my absolute favorite authors and this is probably his most important work.  However, it’s also an incredibly imposing novel.  A 600 page tome documenting the cultural malaise permeating post-war Japan and told through letters, dream logic, and one man’s quest for his missing cat.

And that’s just the A plot of the novel.  Throughout the course of the protagonist’s quest (which in itself changes thoughout the book) he is thrust into the company of a wide assortment of unusual individuals who are all in turn struggling with their own quests for self.  Lieutenant Mamiya is at the end of his life, and is reflecting on an existence that has been entirely hollow since being relased from a Russian POW camp.  Teenager, May Kasahara is trying to decide on the direction of her life after dropping out of school and accidentally killing her boyfriend.  Noboru Wataya, Japan’s latest political darling who’s adept at expressing his lack of substance.  And then there’s the various psychics, all of who have difficulty mastering their own fate.

The result is a book that requires a lot from its readers, but which is truly great from its cover (by the dream team of Chip Kidd and Chris Ware) on.  It’s also Murakami’s most technically masterful work, although I can’t help prefering some of his earlier novels such as A Wild Sheep Chase which were told with a little more abandon.  Still, very highly recommended.

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