The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (12 ratings)


Toru Okada's cat has disappeared and this has unsettled his wife, who is herself growing more distant every day.

Then there are the increasingly explicit telephone calls he has started receiving.

As this compelling story unfolds, the tidy suburban realities of Okada's vague and blameless life, spent cooking, reading, listening to jazz and opera and drinking beer at the kitchen table, are turned inside out, and he embarks on a bizarre journey, guided (however obscurely) by a succession of characters, each with a tale to tell.


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Showing 1 - 5 of 12 reviews.

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Murakami at his most impeneterable and brilliant

Review by

If you like your surrealism in the old style, ponderous and meandering, this book is for you. Working in the tradition of the sixties’ European Nouveau Roman and art-house cinema, Murakami doesn’t have to worry too much about his characters, though the protagonist’s ordinariness is engaging and convincing enough before being intruded upon by various increasingly predictable oddities of time, space and consciousness. Is it a dream? Is there a supersensible reality? Is it the auteur playing wink and a nod with his savvy fan base? Who cares. Stay down the well Mr. Wind Up Bird.This saggy novel carries a number of imaginations of episodes from the Japanese occupation of Manchuria in the 30’s and 40’s. These are terrific reading mostly. Two such chapters appeared as excerpts in the New Yorker magazine. Find the back copies rather than read the tome is this reader’s advice –and [Nomohan: Japan Against Russia, 1939], by [Alvin D. Coox], cited by Murakami as a source, might well be of real interest.

Review by

This is one of the more bizarre, even eccentric novels I've read; after finishing, I'm left thinking I'd like to understand more. As another LT review has suggested, I wonder if I've missed something as I'm not familiar with the details of Japanese culture. It is a series of contradictions: on one hand, it is a beguilingly simple plot about a passive individual, Todo Okada, who mislays his cat and then his wife, Kumiko, on the other a complex story encompassing a number of unusual characters from a schoolgirl searching for a place in life, a devious politician (the brother of Okada's wife) and a pair of almost mystical sisters - Malta and Creta Kano - who believe they can predict or shape the future. The book dips into different worlds and times: though set in the 1980s, in looks back to the 1930s and 40s; it takes in the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and Soviet Labour camps in Siberia, rests fleetingly in the worlds of fashion and politics, and explores a series of odd sibling relationships. Throughout it the principal character is searching, primarily for his wife, but also his cat, yet he conducts this search largely from the bottom of a well, doing very little. Written by another author this bizarre blend of stories would be utterly frustrating, even unreadable; but Murakami's superb style, simple yet poignant, turns them into a compelling novel. I loved it. A very unusual book, and I highly recommend it.

Review by

This was my second Murakami and a bit of a disappointment. I loved Kafka on the Shore a lot, recommended it to friends and family, and kept thinking about that book for a long time after finishing it. Not so with this one. It' s well written, there are some very interesting and thrilling vignettes here when the author introduces new characters and their lives, but the central character and story could not captivate me.

Review by

For a long time this tale of Toru Okada, his missing cat, his missing wife, his evil brother-in-law and the various people whom Okada encounters is fascinating and intriguing. You keep wanting to know why things have happened - why did Kumiko leave Toru? What is the secret power that Okada's brother-in-law seems to have? Why does May, Okada's teenage neighbour keep appearing? All this and a haunted house, the "wind-up bird", and two mystical Kano sisters! Where is it all going?The trouble is, the answer to that question is "nowhere really!". There are just too many loose ends.. Kumiko eventually explains why she left, but later partially denies it, and she never physically reappears. We never get to discover why Noburu Wataya has mysterious powers. We just about accept Malta Kano, but is her sister Creta real? Or is she a sort of fantasy conflation of Kumiko and Malta Kano?The visit of Lieutenant Mamiya, with the empty box, and his subsequent letters seem to have nothing to do with the rest of the story (though in themselves they provide some of the most readable sections of the book). I was expecting some further revelations regarding Mr Honda, but was disappointed.Toru is one of those ordinary people to whom extraordinary things happen-like Voltaire's Candide, or Waugh's Paul Pennyfeather in Decline and Fall. He's quite likeable in a way, though some of his behaviour is puzzling. His cultural interests seem to be entirely western - music especially, but food as well. In fact, that is a feature of the book as a whole. If you read a British or American novel in which the main characters were interested only in oriental culture, you'd think it a bit strange, wouldn't you? Perhaps even rather pretentious.Dreams. Almost every novel I read nowadays has dreams in it. Enough already.The incident relating to the killing of the zoo animals is well-written and engaging, but (like Lt Mamiya's reminiscences) seems to belong to another novel. We westerners know little of the war in the Far East (except for the bits involving the UK and the USA), so the unspeakable brutality and mercilessness of the Russians and Japanese is harrowing. Perhaps Murakami should use his undoubted talents to tell a story set entirely in this context.As for May, she's like the sort of precocious teenage girl who featured in certain French films of the 1960s. The word which was used to describe such females was "kookie". May is charming and likeable, but why do we see all her letters when Toru (apparently) doesn't? After all, we know that he receives Lt Mamiya's letters, because he comments on the old-fashioned handwriting.The book is a sort of confidence trick - the reader is drawn in by a series of mysterious events, and we keep reading in order to find out the hows and the whys...... and that's it. It's all about the creation of wonder and suspense, but the author can't come up with a satisfactory way of resolving the conundrums he has presented us with. I think that the book would have benefited from rigorous editing.

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