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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel [Paperback]

Haruki Murakami
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (185 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1998 Vintage International
Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat.  Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo.  As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

Gripping, prophetic, suffused with comedy and menace, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a tour de force equal in scope to the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon.

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From Amazon

Bad things come in threes for Toru Okada. He loses his job, his cat disappears, and then his wife fails to return from work. His search for his wife (and his cat) introduces him to a bizarre collection of characters, including two psychic sisters, a possibly unbalanced teenager, an old soldier who witnessed the massacres on the Chinese mainland at the beginning of the Second World War, and a very shady politician.

Haruki Murakami is a master of subtly disturbing prose. Mundane events throb with menace, while the bizarre is accepted without comment. Meaning always seems to be just out of reach, for the reader as well as for the characters, yet one is drawn inexorably into a mystery that may have no solution. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is an extended meditation on themes that appear throughout Murakami's earlier work. The tropes of popular culture, movies, music, detective stories, combine to create a work that explores both the surface and the hidden depths of Japanese society at the end of the 20th century.

If it were possible to isolate one theme in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, that theme would be responsibility. The atrocities committed by the Japanese army in China keep rising to the surface like a repressed memory, and Toru Okada himself is compelled by events to take responsibility for his actions and struggle with his essentially passive nature. If Toru is supposed to be a Japanese Everyman, steeped as he is in Western popular culture and ignorant of the secret history of his own nation, this novel paints a bleak picture. Like the winding up of the titular bird, Murakami slowly twists the gossamer threads of his story into something of considerable weight. --Simon Leake --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Amazingly long, incredibly pricey, wildly experimental, often confusing but never boring, Murakami's most famous novel has been brought to audio life with extreme dedication: by Naxos, a company that regularly wins prizes, and by a reader with an uncommon combination of skills. Degas is already a Murakami veteran, having read the audio version of A Wild Sheep Chase (Naxos), and has worked on radio, stage and even cartoon voice (including Mr. Bean). He catches the constantly changing mental landscape of Murakami's fertile imagination—which moves from detective story to explicit sexual fantasy, heartbreaking Japanese WWII historical flashback, everyday details of married life (cooking, shopping and pet care) and even the occasional burst of satiric humor. Degas treats it all with the clarity and calmness of a very deep, very still pool. Certainly not for everyone's taste or budget, but anyone interested in this important author will find something to enlighten them. Available as a Vintage paperback (Reviews, Aug. 18. 1997). (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture of the Rossini's The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I should start by saying that I usually like bizarre fiction. Well, "Wind-up Bird Chronicle" is certainly that. A "regular Joe" for the main character, surrounded by the weird and inexplicable - psychic sisters named after islands, a healer and her mute son (named after spices), a well with no water in it, and an alternative reality set in a hotel.
The beginning of the book sucks you in, written in a crisp, modern style, with no high-brow literary waffle. Very quickly you realise that something strange is happening to our "normal" protagonist, Toru Okada. The events don't seem to be connected in any way, but they are portrayed as clues, and you are batting for Toru to figure them out. The random, bizarre happenings make you excited, curious, desperate to read on.
So then you read on. And on. More strange characters and events get introduced. There are large forays into the Japanese occupation of Manchuria before WWII and gruesome stories of violence there. But still, you think (or rather hope, by now) that this will all be explained. Somehow. But alas, it isn't. And you begin to suspect that many of the things you thought were significant "clues", were actually just there to increase the "weird and quirky" factor.
At the end, several important people and occurances had just disappeared out of the novel (Malto and Creta Kano?), or were left hanging without explanation or resolve. I don't want the meaning of everything spelled out to me, I'm happy to use my imagination to figure some things out. But this book didn't even leave me with a skeleton on which to build my thoughts at the end. Only one of the themes (good vs. evil - how original) was resolved to my satisfaction.
Read Murakami's book for an introduction to his style, read it if the words "Japanese" and "bizarre" in combination sound good. But don't expect to finish it feeling contented.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This will become your favourite Murakami novel June 11 2007
Format:Paperback
If you have just bought "After Dark," I wish you bon appetit. When you are finished the newest Murakami sensation, however, you must go back to this earlier, even more incredible work. All the haunting tropes of any good Murakami story are there (cooking, old jazz, cats, earlobes, cooking, missing people, detached sex and good coffee), but in their most distilled, brilliantly rendered form. The world of the Wind-Up Bird is haunting, confusing, dreamlike and wry. It is a rip-roaringly quiet story that meanders towards the end, but keeps you turning pages nontheless. There is a prolonged torture scene that may or may not take place at the bottom of a well, or is it the plains of Mongolia? An intriguing woman who may or may not be someone's missing wife keeps calling to have phone sex. A tornado occurs. You learn something about the fall of the Roman empire. You are often unsure where you are or why things are happening, but you keep turning pages because Murakami has cast such a spell on you and his strange world is as compelling as any soap opera. A fantastic read, in all senses of the word.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wind-Up Bird has no spring Oct. 12 2006
Format:Paperback
Do you read for pain or pleasure, entertainment or enlightenment, to pass the time or punish yourself? I have enjoyed everything else I have read by Haruki Murakami, but reading THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE was a chore. I kept waiting for it to gain momentum, but it never did. There are portions of the book that are engaging, but mostly it crawls along covering the mundane minute-to-minute happenings of the narrator and protagonist. How many people fill their journals with what they have for lunch? Some of the most memorable parts of the book are the narrator's buying packages of tofu and fresh vegetables or of his book reading. He also seems to be quite fond of beer and fish.

The characters are superficially interesting. Malta Cano is a spiritual counselor of sorts who wears a red vinyl hat. Her sister, Creta, is a sexual counselor. A man gets his skin masterfully peeled off during a tortuous interview. There is another man who doesn't talk and just doesn't want to. Yet another man is a powerful politician and economist who is also an incubus. Doesn't that sound fascinating? You might think so but there is very little magic in the book. The one character that elicits sustained interest is the unkempt "chubby little frog with a bald head," the creepy assistant of the incubus, the narrator's brother in-law.

To make a short story long, I found the book a grind to read and am stunned that I cannot find a single neutral review, much less another negative one. Every other review I've read of this book lauds it as a clasic of modern fiction, a "Kafkaesque tour de force," and other such academic blather.

I have had to force myself through many books in my life for the sake of academics and usually found some reward in doing so. Don't bother waiting for the reward in reading "WIND-UP BIRD." The reader ends up like Sisyphus: rolling one's interest to the top of each chapter only to find yourself again at the bottom.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Help! March 24 2004
Format:Paperback
I really liked the book but it's so frustrating with all the loose ends. It's like a David Lynch movie, and I feel like I wasn't equipped with the proper skills to thoroughly interpet the symbolism and meaning of the book. Someone perfectly summed up all the dissatisfing points that I would like more clarification on:
"Despite the fact that I enjoyed reading this novel very much and think very highly of it, I do feel somewhat unsatisfied with a number of plot elements in the intertwining stories that I think were not properly explained.
1.) Regarding the nature of Noboru Wataya's dark power, which Kumiko and her sister were also tangled up with: It seems to me Noboru Wataya is a sort of black magician who has learned to harness this innate ability, and yet it is hinted at that the entire Wataya bloodline is somehow affected by this evil power. This evil entity is central to the plotline (It was in some way responsible for Kumiko's horrifying streak of extramarital [affairs] which in turn triggered her disappearance), yet the phenomenon surrounding it is kept extremely vague. This mysterious something was almost certainly behind Noboru Wataya's defilement of both Kumiko's sister and Creta Kano, but as for the purpose for these defilements we are kept in the dark. When Toru finally does battle with this evil entity, it still is kept extremely vague and we never get to see it. I found myself wishing Toru would ignore Kumiko's requests and turn the flashlight on it, just for curiosity's sake.
2.) Regarding the story of the young boy who I assume is Cinnamon who hears the wind up bird and then proceeds to witness two shady looking characters burying a certain something on his property.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A dream-like adventure celebrating risk
Having no idea about the book or the author when it was recommended to me, I forever since have feared phone calls when cooking pasta. Read more
Published 7 months ago by SogeumHoochoo
4.0 out of 5 stars Right on.
Great book, lovingly used and getting some more love now! Arrived quickly with no problems at all. Very nice indeed.
Published 13 months ago by Donna Outtrim
4.0 out of 5 stars Stories Within Stories
A young man and his wife live in suburban Tokyo and one day his wife leaves for work and never comes home. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Daffy Bibliophile
3.0 out of 5 stars Audio version got me through this book
Toru Okada is in the midst of much more than a mid-life crisis. He quit his legal job and has yet to search for a new position. Read more
Published on April 5 2011 by Heather Pearson
4.0 out of 5 stars Creates more questions than it answers
First, the good: This is a highly readable book. I started The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle about 6 weeks ago, and read it through to the end. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2010 by M. Yakiwchuk
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, quirky, and unconsciously dark.
If you like stories, this book is full of them. The stories are arranged in this way: protagonist meets a mysterious stranger; mysterious stranger tells a mysterious tale; we're... Read more
Published on April 11 2007 by K
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Book!
I was directed to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by two friends. After hearing so much about them I picked up the novel expecting to be instantly blown away. Read more
Published on May 3 2005 by Louis Reville (Sacramento, CA)
5.0 out of 5 stars Not all questions need answers
and not all answers need to be spelled out. The comments left here about unanswered themes and untidy threads might indicate a possible misunderstanding. Read more
Published on June 4 2004 by small acts
5.0 out of 5 stars The fun is in the details
What I like about this book is all the wonderful details. I like the description of the apartment, the jelly fish, how Toru likes to iron his shirts. Read more
Published on April 23 2004 by swtthing
4.0 out of 5 stars a music metaphor...
I loved reading this book, the places it took me were all pleasantly entertaining (although I unfortunately read the 'skinning' part while eating sushi, not recommended!!!). Read more
Published on April 19 2004 by Matthew C. Davis
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