The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Haruki Murakami

Nov 29, 2014 review (read between Nov 2, 2014 – Nov 16, 2014)

1st reading read review on Goodreads

With A Wild Sheep Chase being the only other work by Haruki Murakami I’ve read, I can’t be certain if this is simply his style or if The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is supposed to be a successor of sorts to A Wild Sheep Chase. Published 12 years after A Wild Sheep Chase and twice as long, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles contains all-too similar tropes: a simple man with a troubled marriage as the protagonist (actually named this time around: Toru Okada), supporting characters with odd personalities or mysterious powers, and a mystery that drives our protagonist into a surreal, fever-dream of a journey. It worked well in A Wild Sheep Chase, but the package as a whole falls disappointingly short in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

First, let me talk about the positives. Being twice as long, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles is able to do things that A Wild Sheep Chase was not able to do, and certainly feels more fleshed out. There are even more characters that are interesting (to say the least); the protagonist is able to interact with them more often and in more meaningful ways, and more pages are committed to expanding their crazy backstories. The mystery is also more confounding, with more layers of intricacies piled on top of each other. The protagonist’s journey also feels more like an actual journey instead of a series of short cuts from location to location. All this makes up for a build-up that is everything that I liked about the build-up in A Wild Sheep Chase, and then some: it’s longer, has more substance to it, and is even more tense. It’s everything I wanted after reading A Wild Sheep Chase. So what’s not to like?

Well, despite the book (and thus the build-up) being twice as long, the resolution and ending is just as long in A Wild Sheep Chase, if not shorter. Almost 600 pages committed to an amazing build-up of the unraveling of the mystery, and then everything is haphazardly explained or done away with in less than 10 pages. Because of the length of the book and the time I spent reading about the characters, I ended up feeling more invested in the characters in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles than in A Wild Sheep Chase. To see their tale concluded in the same curt fashion as in the latter book was, simply put, incredibly unsatisfying.

They say it’s about the journey, not the destination. But seriously, fuck that. I can’t even recall the last time I’ve read a book with such an exciting and engaging ‘journey’ that ended in such an unsatisfying ‘destination.’