The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a great slice of life story that embraces the unknown and dream-like ideas that Murakami is so popular for to deliver a well-written book that I’ll never forget. Toru Okada is an unassuming unemployed married man that does a lot of the housework while his wife is out working. In Japanese culture, especially during the mid 1980’s, when this story is set, it is a very emasculated position for the husband to be staying home while the wife works. This doesn’t bother Toru all that much, though, as he is a relatively easy going guy. His wife asks him to find their missing cat in the neighborhood, an odd neighborhood that has a blocked-off alley that is only usable and entrance gained by the people living in those houses. Through this missing cat, Toru meets many interesting and strange individuals but his life is turned upside down when his wife goes missing.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, like many of Murakami’s books, is all about the journey and not the destination. To appreciate his writing you have to remember how you felt when you were reading the book, during certain scenes, and not take the book, so much, as a whole. When you look at one of Murakami’s books as a whole a lot of times the weird magical realism things that make only a small amount of sense overshadows the entire book. I made that mistake with the first Murakami book I read, Sputnik Sweetheart. I ended up disliking the book because of basically one magical realism scene that made no sense. I now realize it is all about the other small little scenes and the terrific writing that makes Murakami’s work so great, and this definitely is true in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
There are so many interludes during this book. There are many sections talking about the Manchurian War because Toru meets an ex-soldier that is there to tell his story. These sections were fascinating and really provided a great historical context. There are dream-like sections where Toru travels into another space. There are occasionally long stories being told by characters that will last entire chapters. The reoccurring theme in all these stories is that they are being told to Toru. His listening skills really shape and mold this entire story.
Pick this book up when you want a very up-close and personal general fiction book about a rather interesting man. There are about 4-5 scenes with sex in it and some of the things he says about a 16-year-old girl are a bit uncomfortable so if you don’t want to read those instances you should skip the book. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I listened to both the audio and read the book. Rupert Degas is an excellent narrator but his loudness goes up and down randomly at times, which was annoying. I’ll probably revisit my score of this book in the future as it could possibly become a 5.
21/25 Possible Score
4 – Plot
4 – Characters
4 – World Building
5 – Writing Style
4 – Heart & Mind Aspect