Wednesday, 5 August 2020

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami Book Review!

Hi Readers! I read my FIFTH Murakami book recently & it has only made me more confused as to whether I like his writing or not. I obviously did some research & came to the conclusion that I only like his books which have MAGICAL REALISM (Kafka on the Shore, A Wild Sheep Chase, After Dark) in it as opposed to a melancholy love story (Norwegian Wood) or psychological fiction like in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I had planned to read this book since some time now, mainly because I wanted to read more books written by Murakami & also because this book fits into the category of ‘a book published the year I was born (1994)’ from my Reading Challenge. So, here goes a LONG & CRITICAL book review for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.


The book is divided into three books namely; The Thieving Magpie, Bird as Prophet, The Birdcatcher. I wish I could write an introduction for you, but this book is beyond bizarre, so here’s the blurb from Goodreads.

“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.”


This book is filled with many characters, but our main character is the miserable Toru Okada who is unemployed & has the emotional range of a teaspoon. We are with him for 607 pages & yet he feels so distant & unreal. There are books where a flawed main character works if applied correctly, but that was not the case here. Toru's character is so devoid of life. In the beginning he comes off as a kind & caring husband. But soon it becomes clear that he is just a self-involved person who doesn't even know anything either about himself or anyone else. He has no beliefs or thoughts or opinions of his own barring a few standard ones repeated in the novel.

Some other characters are Kumiko, Toru’s wife who leaves him. Kumiko’s elder brother is Noboru Wataya who is an economist on the path to become a politician. Some weird characters are the sisters Malta Kano & Creta Kano, both of whom possess some supernatural powers. There’s also the sixteen-year old girl who lives in Toru’s neighbourhood, May Kasahara. She is the only somewhat normal person in the entire story. Then in Book 3, we are introduced to another odd duo of mother & son – Nutmeg Akasaka & Cinnamon Akasaka, who also possess powers. There’s also Lieutenant Mamiya who comes & goes in the book as he pleases only to tell his stories about World War II.

I hoped that the similarities between all their stories would finally CONNECT somewhere, but it never does which is highly frustrating.


There was a line in the book toward the end which really is the gist of the whole book-

“Everything was intertwined, with the complexity of a three-dimensional puzzle – a puzzle in which truth was not necessarily fact and fact not necessarily truth.”

Basically, anything could be true & anything could be a fact, which goes with my theory of everything being COMPLETELY RANDOM & OPEN TO THE READER’S INTERPRETATION. Now, I’m all open for reader’s interpretation in scenarios where I have to guess if the girl chooses person A or person B or where I have to decide if the killer is person A or person B. But, in this random book, there are not only infinite probabilities of answers but also a whole set of infinite probabilities of questions. What is the reader supposed to make of that? This is just one of the many reasons why I hated this novel.


When I searched online, I found out that the Genres of this novel are Science Fiction, Psychological Fiction & Fantastique. I already dislike the Sci-Fi genre when it comes to reading, but I didn’t feel there was much of that in this. It was more of psychological fiction in its worst form. In Book 1, there are only stories which, at that stage I felt will go somewhere in the latter of the book. Then, in Book 2, I anticipated some action but with such a passive protagonist, there was nothing exciting in it. Just more stories with similar themes or similar objects connecting it to other stories. Because of these similarities, throughout the novel, there is this thing that happened to me. It felt like the story was always sitting on edge or just on the precipice of something exciting happening. Maybe themes of time travel or reincarnation or crossover between alternate realities, but sadly none of that happened. My imagination of these themes was so much better than actuality of the novel. Just like all the theories of Game of Thrones last season were far better than the actual season.



I have never been more ANGRY with a book than this one. Do you understand how real that feeling of anger is when directed towards a book? There’s nothing you can do about that anger! (Except maybe write a critical review about it.)

There was so much potential in the content of this book. There were individual stories of – Malta Kano with her water obsession, Creta Kano with her being a prostitute of the body & then of the mind, Lieutenant Mamiya’s well story & then followed by Boris’ story, May Kasahara’s life story, Nutmeg’s fashion design story, Nutmeg’s father’s war story. The thing is, if you look at these stories individually, they are just SO INTERESTING! I might have liked this book far more if it were a collection of short stories like these. But, the narrative is not a short story but a novel. This greatly reduced the impact of the individual stories because they did not connect at all or did not connect well with each other, which was infuriating.


This brings me to the unconnectedness that overflows throughout the novel. The funny thing is the author himself acknowledges this unconnectedness in all the stories making a fool out of the reader. I mean, dear author, if you know all this is unconnected, then please explore more & make it connect so that it becomes a fascinating story! But no. That ain’t happening!

Those of you who have read the book must know EXACTLY what I am talking about.

The blue-black mark on the cheek.

The well.

The baseball bat.

The cry of the wind-up bird.

City of Hsin-Ching.

The Singer in Sapporo.

These are some of the common things in the stories & also which are not remotely connected to each other. There are also two chapters where a boy sees things outside his home at midnight. That’s it. Those were just two chapters for that boy & what was the significance of it? Also, what was the significance of those long letters that May sends to Toru which he never gets? So much in this book can be omitted. So much could be re-written to make things connect. My main issue with this book was that it had a lot of potential, but because of the unconnected stories, unnecessary content & entire randomness taking over, it failed to reach that potential.

~~The Ending~~

I know the author tried his best to tie one or two of the loose ends. But the girl who calls him for the 10-minute talk him who also happens to be the girl in that dream/other consciousness’s hotel room who also happens to be Kumiko? That’s a bit far-fetched. But, the loose ends about Kumiko & her sister are solved. The secret of Noboru Wataya is known. Even so, that was not at all satisfactory. Creta Kano’s son is another loose end. As are so many others which I cannot get into.

The thing is there are way too many things introduced into the story and after a point the author himself couldn't tie them up properly or even make an attempt at it. The story starts off with one thing and does end on that same thing, but the other twenty different things introduced throughout the story line have no future! They just exist and give small ties to other stories but that's about the vision of it.

Basically, the beginning, the middle & the end are all average. The only reason I have this book 2/5 stars is because of the novel individual stories of the many characters.


What I liked about the books are the individual stories unique to the characters. Apart from this, there is nothing to like. I know how neurotic I sound talking about how everything needs to be connected. But, it just does. What is the point otherwise in writing a half-assed story with no meaning or purpose or even entertainment?

This book just did not work for me. The score is 3-2 in favour of liked Murakami books. Let’s hope I get more on that side!

Until next time,

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