Wednesday, 3 July 2013

South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami

Fun and happiness! Sorry, wrong book.
I seem to have acquired a few Murakami books over the years, yet I've only read one of them. I've read Norwegian Wood and thought it was excellent, although even that I had to restart as the first time I hated it and stopped after 20 pages. I picked this up when my band Barricades Rise did a photoshoot in local bookshop Astley Book Farm. This book can be seen in some of the promo pics we did with Redwood Photography. It's a slim book at only 187 pages.

Murakami seems to love heading straight for melancholy and staying in the middle lane throughout. He did with Norwegian Wood and he has with this. The story revolves around Hajime, a single child (rare in Japan in the 70's). Cast as an outsider due to his lack of siblings, he finds solace in Shimamoto the only other single child in his school. The pair connect on so many levels, winding up spending their entire childhood together. When Hajime goes off to college he realises swiftly he cannot adjust to life without Shimamoto, casting aside woman without thought. He marries and has kids but ultimately has a hole left in him. Until Shimamoto turns up once more.

I enjoyed the book, but can't really say it struck a chord like Norwegian Wood did. Like the jazz music that runs through the book, it seems to meander back and forth between complete hopelessness to overriding joy. Hajime and Shimamoto are a tragedy and it's clear from the start (and from the fact it's Murakami) what you are in for.

For those that like to shed a tear. A middle of the road 6.5 of the Comfometer.

Michael