2015 Reading Challenge, Book 30: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

This is a book of short stories by Murakami and possesses all of his usual magic in the every day and some of the usual supernatural touches he handles so very well. There were some stories I didn’t gel with but I still enjoyed the writing of course. Most of these stories were excellent and my favourite by far was Hanalei Bay, the story of a woman whose son is killed by a shark whilst surfing at Hanalei Bay, and Hunting Knife, a story about a chance encounter with a man in a wheelchair. Both had all of Murakami’s strange, otherwordly beauty in spades.

A story that particularly interested me for other reasons (though it too was a favourite) was Firefly, the story of an isolated, apathetic, lonely young man (ie the usual Murkami protagonist) at college who enters into a questionable entanglement with the girlfriend of his best friend at high school (who committed suicide unexpectedly). There were some startling similarities between this story and Murakami’s latest novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I felt that Firefly was perhaps used as a spring board for Colorless Tsukuri but that Firefly was the more succesful of the two.

Colorless Tsukuru falls flat for me. I feel like the usual awakening and catalyzation of an apathetic young man who is essentially drifting through life (which is a common theme in Murakami’s novels) fails to work here. Tsukuru Tazaki meets his woman with the beautiful ears, is sent on his journey (in this case to discover why his four colourfully named friends mysteriously cut him from their lives) and emerges from said journey…pretty much the same. A little more poetically philosophical perhaps, but no different. Usually Murakami’s protagonists end up different somehow, altered. Their whole life and attitude changed. This felt like a backwards step.

I’ve been told I’ve missed the point of this book, and maybe I have, but I wasn’t as interested in this (undoubtedly well written) story. The collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is excellent and I’d recommend both books. Murakami is a fantastic writer, and what doesn’t work for me may well work for you – for example I loved his trilogy 1Q84, but I know a lot of people didn’t.

You can buy Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman in the UK here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blind-Willow-Sleeping-Haruki-Murakami/dp/0099488663

And in the US here http://www.amazon.com/Blind-Willow-Sleeping-Vintage-International/dp/1400096081

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