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Sputnik Sweetheart [Paperback]

Haruki Murakami
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 19 2003 Panther
Haruki Murakami, the internationally bestselling author of Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, plunges us into an urbane Japan of jazz bars, coffee shops, Jack Kerouac, and the Beatles to tell this story of a tangled triangle of uniquely unrequited loves.

A college student, identified only as “K,” falls in love with his classmate, Sumire. But devotion to an untidy writerly life precludes her from any personal commitments–until she meets Miu, an older and much more sophisticated businesswoman. When Sumire disappears from an island off the coast of Greece, “K” is solicited to join the search party and finds himself drawn back into her world and beset by ominous, haunting visions. A love story combined with a detective story, Sputnik Sweetheart ultimately lingers in the mind as a profound meditation on human longing.

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From Amazon

Haruki Murakami is arguably one of Japan's finest, modern writers and is, increasingly, being seen as one of the top authors working today. The last novel of his to find its way to these shores, Norwegian Wood, was a delightful, if slightly one-dimensional coming-of-age tale. The pyrotechnics of his previous, more surreal novels (Wind Up Bird Chronicle and A Wild Sheep Chase) had disappeared but something of his eccentricity, what made his books such a wonder, had disappeared too. Sputnik Sweetheart is a confident continuation of this more simple style yet one that retains the allegories, the depth of his best work.

The narrator, a teacher, is in love with the beguiling, odd Sumire. As his best friend, she is not adverse to phoning at three or four in the morning to ask a pointless question or share a strange thought. Sumire, though, is in love with a beautiful, older woman, Miu, who does not, can not, return her affections. Longing for Sumire, K (that is all we are told by way of a name) finds some comfort in a purely sexual relationship with the mother of one of his pupils. But the consolation is slight. K is unhappy. Miu and Sumire, now working together, take a business trip to a Greek Island. Something happens, he is not told what, and so K travels to Greece to see what help he can offer.

Themes of love, loss, sexuality, identity and selfhood are all interrogated, woven into a compelling, romantic, serious and sometimes sad book. It is a disarmingly simple, hugely satisfying, intelligent and moving work and one of Murakami's best. Simplicity, sprinkled with a dose of his magic, has enabled Murakami to write candidly, succinctly and beautifully about the complications and difficulties of love and loving. --Mark Thwaite

From Publishers Weekly

Murakami's seventh novel to be translated into English is a short, enigmatic chronicle of unrequited desire involving three acquaintances the narrator, a 24-year-old Tokyo schoolteacher; his friend Sumire, an erratic, dreamy writer who idolizes Jack Kerouac; and Miu, a beautiful married businesswoman with a secret in her past so harrowing it has turned her hair snowy white. When Sumire abandons her writing for life as an assistant to Miu and later disappears while the two are vacationing on a Greek island, the narrator/teacher travels across the world to help find her. Once on the island, he discovers Sumire has written two stories: one explaining the extent of her longing for Miu; the second revealing the secret from Miu's past that bleached her hair and prevents her from getting close to anyone. All of the characters suffer from bouts of existential despair, and in the end, back in Tokyo, having lost both of his potential saviors and deciding to end a loveless affair with a student's mother, the narrator laments his loneliness. Though the story is almost stark in its simplicity more like Murakami's romantic Norwegian Wood than his surreal Wind-Up Bird Chronicles the careful intimacy of the protagonists' conversation and their tightly controlled passion for each other make this slim book worthwhile. Like a Zen koan, Murakami's tale of the search for human connection asks only questions, offers no answers and must be meditated upon to provide meaning. (Apr. 30)Forecast: Long the secret delight of connoisseurs, Murakami has been steadily and quietly acquiring a wider readership. His latest offering breaks no new ground but is packaged in a striking manner and should attract a few newcomers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
In the spring of her twenty-second year, Sumire fell in love for the first time in her life. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How love changes everything July 16 2004
Format:Paperback
This is the second novel I have read by Haruki Murakami, and Sputnik Sweetheart has many of the key ingredients of his other works. The narrator is a benign twenty-something male. The girl he is sweet on disappears without a trace. An enigmatic older woman, with a bizarre past, helps him look for her. Greek islands, the idea of escaping into wells and several cat stories make an appearance.
But what made this book different was the real feelings of the characters. They were raw, vunerable and exposed. The three main characters made up a loose love triangle. They were each in love, concerned and anxious about it. Wondering if they should make a move. Confused about their identities and the meaning of life. Living with the thought "if only........"
This book stirred up a lot of thought in me. The discussion of themes like identity, happiness, and purpose in life was really moving. If this is your first Murakami book, you will love it. For those who are familiar with his work, you may have to simply ignore the fact that Murakami uses a character template to display his brilliant themes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another in a strand of gems Sept. 23 2002
Format:Paperback
No need to extoll this masterpiece, just some hints
on how a lowbrow sci-fi-trophic type like me became a
Murakami addict and loved it. Basically, start with
Hard Boiled Wonderland and work backwards, then forwards.
By the time you get to this gem, you'll appreciate
the rock-garden clarity of a single supernatural
moment embedded in the best of assimilible
Americanisms - the hardboiled detective-by-default
(The Long Goodbye) who has almost succeeded in expunging
his own self, as he investigates the mysterious
unreachable waif-woman (Raise High the Roof Beam
Carpenters), and the more mysterious, more unreachable
wonder-woman who is her unintentional yet supremely
sophisticated lover (The Lyre of Orpheus).
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3.0 out of 5 stars �You�re a lot weirder than you look.� July 11 2004
By EriKa
Format:Hardcover
Don't get me wrong - I love Haruki Murakami. I have noticed, however, in reading his works, that the style and tone and themes are often too much alike, and this grows slightly tiresome after a while. How many books can a person write about people disappearing without a trace? In short, the narrator of Sputnik Sweetheart, a schoolteacher, is in love with a strange girl called Sumire who only desire to be a writer. Sumire realizes early on that she has fallen in love with a sophisticated older businesswoman, Miu. Miu gives Sumire a job, and that is where the changes and complications ensue.
Interesting ideas in this book include Murakami's brief exploration of the idea of being "attentive". When the main character/narrator had an affair with an older woman earlier in his life, he was "instructed" in how to go about being with a woman when the woman used the analogy of being a good driver versus an attentive driver. The woman insists that being a good driver does not matter as long as the driver is "attentive" and alert. The narrator began to see the connection to his sexual being... being alert and attentive to the things around him. "Not prejudging things, listening to what's going on, keeping your ears, heart and mind open."
Another interesting idea is the idea of your existence being split into two parts. One of the main characters, Miu, felt herself split in half one night... one side had all her sexual desire, her youth. The part the character in the book was left with was a woman with no sexual desire, who held everyone at arm's length and whose hair had turned white overnight. The narrator explores the idea of what is on "the other side"... can people cross over between these two existences?
Finally, Murakami writes, "So that's how we live our lives.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Story of Loneliness and Frustration April 16 2004
Format:Paperback
In his sparely-told novel, Sputnik Sweetheart (2001), Haruki Murakami gives a compelling picture of loneliness. The novel has three major characters. First, there is the nameless young male narrator of the story who has recently graduated from college and is teaching school. The second major character is Sumire, a young woman who has dropped out of college and is struggling to become a writer. She is under the influence of Jack Kerouac and the American beats. The third major character is Miu, a woman in her late 30's who appears when the tale begins to be a polished, highly successful career woman.
The story is based upon a love triangle. The young man narrating the story has long been in love with Sumire. But Sumire views him as a friend and a confidante. She is not interested in a physical relationship with him or, apparently, with any man. When Sumire meets Miu, the two become friends and Sumire develops a strong physical attraction to Miu. The plot of this story develops and then disentangles this love triangle.
For me, the strongest part of the story was the portait of the narrator's love for Sumire, together with the attendant emotional and physical pain resulting to him from Sumire's lack of interest in a sexual relationship. The characters in this book, the primary characters as well as the secondary characters, are fragmented and lonely. Given that deep intimacy with another person generally involves a physical, sexual component and a component based upon friendship and interests, the characters in this book exhibit at most one or the other. They seem unable to combine both. They also don't know what they want and don't understand themselves very well.
In my opinion, a story such as Murakami's begs for a spiritual understanding.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Getting tired
The first novel I read by Murakami was Hard-boiled Wonderland', followed by Dance Dance Dance, Wild Sheep Chase and Wind-up Bird Chronicles, all of which I enjoyed immensely and... Read more
Published on April 15 2010 by Johnny Darkness
4.0 out of 5 stars Murakami's "Sputnik Sweetheart"
Haruki Murakami's "Sputnik Sweetheart" (2001) is a novel with themes of rejection, frustration, and lack of self-knowledge. Read more
Published on April 16 2004 by Robin Friedman
5.0 out of 5 stars Haruki what else can I say
Huruki Murakami is one of the best authors out today. If you haven't read anything by him then I suggest Norweigan Wood. Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2004 by John I. Provan
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird story
A weird and wonderful tale told by a narrator we later find who is known only as "K". His friend Sumire, meets an older woman, falls in love with her, then vanishes from... Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic and surprising story - presence of absence
I am still uncertain I grasped all the underlying meanings and intentions of Haruki Murakami in this poetic story but know that this was a unique read; one which requires time and... Read more
Published on Nov. 3 2003 by Tsila Sofer Elguez
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic and surprising story - presence of absence
I am still uncertain I grasped all the underlying meanings and intentions of Haruki Murakami in this poetic story but know that this was a unique read; one which requires time and... Read more
Published on Oct. 13 2003 by tsila Sofer elguez
1.0 out of 5 stars Cheated out of an ending
This is the story of a strange love triangle, wherein the main character disappears. There are some nice moments in the book, but it seems as if the writer was short on plot lines... Read more
Published on Sept. 15 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Life is just a dream, sweetheart
"Sputnik Sweetheart" was my first Murakami book, and I am fascinated. There will be more Murakami in my future. Read more
Published on March 14 2003 by Zack Davisson
5.0 out of 5 stars mysteriously engaging, peculiar character
a love story? well kind of. to me, a book about romance makes me say yuck, for lack of better terminology. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2003 by "chaistarr"
2.0 out of 5 stars Elegant writing doesn't salvage incredible shrinking plot
The first-person narrator, a young primary school teacher, is enamored of a brash young woman named Sumire, who is completely devoted to the idea of becoming a novelist. Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2003 by Dave Deubler
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