The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

Haruki Murakami

translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin
Vintage 2003
A book review by Danny Yee © 2006
Having quit his job, Toru Okada is enjoying a pleasant stint as a "house husband", listening to music and arranging the dry cleaning and doing the cooking — until his cat goes missing, his wife becomes distant and begins acting strangely, and he starts meeting enigmatic people with fantastic life stories. They involve him in a world of psychics, shared dreams, out-of-body experiences, and shaman-like powers, and tell him stories from Japan's war in Manchuria, about espionage on the border with Mongolia, the battle of Nomonhan, the killing of the animals in Hsin-ching's zoo, and the fate of Japanese prisoners-of-war in the Soviet camps in Siberia.

The plot of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is little more than a skeleton, and an ad hoc one that doesn't really hold together. There are key characters in the first half, for example, who simply disappear in the second. And the episodes from World War II seem like parts of a different novel that didn't quite come together. Murakami's writing is good enough, however, that this doesn't really matter. Toru Okada is a sympathetic protagonist going through exciting adventures and the other characters remain convincing even at their strangest.

December 2006

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%T The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
%A Murakami, Haruki
%M Japanese
%F Rubin, Jay
%I Vintage
%D 2003 [1997]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0099448793
%P 607pp