This book examines a number of themes deftly and the prose was handled with ease, but ultimately I was underwhelmed with Murakami’s latest offering.
Here we read the third-person account of Tsukuru Tazaki who is haunted by a great loss, that of his four, once close, friends. They broke off their friendship with him without warning or explanation and Tsukuru never had the strength to ask the questions that needed to be asked in order to find out why. Fastforward to years later, when he's recounting this traumatic period in his life to his girlfriend and she encourages him to finally find out why they abandoned him all those years ago. This, she believes, will help him finally put these ghosts to bed.
While it was with interest that I read about themes such as loss and love, there was a coldness to the narrative that made me feel like too much like an outsider. The best fiction, to me, is that which makes me feel as if I’m intimately acquainted with the protagonist. Here, I felt a voyeur at times or like I was standing with a gun to Tsukuru’s head and making him tell me his story! I suppose the overall feeling I got was reluctance. This reluctance was not just with Tsukuru alone, but with all the characters. I felt like they all wanted to be somewhere else. This reluctance was largely, in part, a subsequence of the themes tackled, but I felt it went too far.
I found that I enjoyed the first third of the book more so than the rest, this being because there was mystery surrounding it. It was pretty shocking to find out why Tsukuru’s friends had suddenly cut off contact all those years ago, but instead of propelling the story forward, it felt as if it all but stopped there. While I love books that focus on characters, there has to be some level of a story to sustain it and I felt this just wasn’t there.