Fiction Book Reviews

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

By Haruki Murakami (Harvill)
£7.99 Pbk 1999
ISBN 1860465811

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is one of several novels, to date, by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. It is his fattest - his magnum opus. The book begins simply enough with an unemployed Japanese man's routine day at home being interrupted by a telephone call from a strange woman. Without explanation the call disrails his world as first his wife, and then his cat disappear. From here on things become more complex for Mr Okada as he endeavours to find out what has happened to his loved ones. He follows the threads into a bizarrely connected and odd world. I wouldn't suggest you try to understand it all as you read. Better to take a run up and keep going as Murakami takes you through perhaps one of the most inventive novels you've probably ever read. Through past, present and future lives, through the real and the surreal, through horror and delight, this book twists and turns. I certainly lost the plot a few times but sooner or later I rattled back on track again. If the plot is strange so are the characters. The mysterious Malta Kano has a business card that is completely blank except for the words MALTA KANO. Her sister Creta Kano sports early-sixties outfits - all vinyl and hats. The Crete and Malta references naturally reflect their father's enjoyment of the holiday islands, naturally.Then of course there is the Wind-up Bird.

When I try to think of authors similar to Murakami, I can only convey some sense of his style by rolling together Raymond Carver, Paul Auster and Milan Kundera. While the West is still getting to know this author he has become something of a cult figure in Japan where one of his other novels, Norwegian Wood, sold more than four million copies. Readers looking for a shorter and less strange Murakami novel as a first read might turn to South of the Border, West of the Sun.