The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki MurakamiThis book was a re-read for me. I must have read it about ten years ago, and it was my first Murakami. For some reason, I then didn’t read any others for several years, until I came (back) to the Netherlands, 5 years ago, where Murakami is pretty big.

I’ve read most of his available books since, although I have a few more to go. My favorites are Hard-Boiled Wonderland and  A Wild Sheep Chase.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: What it’s about

Ha, what it’s about, I ask? Would you like the short version or the long one (600 pages of small print)? Let’s try the short version:

Toru Okada lives with his wife in a rented house. He is unemployed while his wife is making long hours at her job at a publisher’s. When their cat goes missing, he enters the alley behind their house and a lot of events begin to unfold.

He meets a 16-year old girl that shows him an abandoned house nearby with a dried-up well. He meets two sisters that offer to help him find back his cat, and later also his wife, who also disappears. He also encounters a Lieutenant from the second World War and a woman and her son who make their money in a very odd way. Then there is the awful brother in law who plays a more important role as the story progresses.

All these people have their own story which do in various ways have their effect or relation with Toru.

In the end, some of the strands of the story come together, but a lot is left to the reader.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: What I thought

This book reinforces to me what a great storyteller Murakami is. There were many stories within the larger story and I found each and all of them interesting. I think this is not so much the story, well, not just the story, but especially the way it is written.

It’s like candy to me. Every sentence is somehow just right. And I want to read more, and more. It’s like arriving in a place where you feel safe and happy. What can I say? Murakami writes in a way that is perfect for me!

I recognised some themes from other books by Murakami: so is there a dark hotel with many corridors where Toru has to find his way. A hotel without any lights was also present in Dance, Dance, Dance. In Kafka on the Shore, I’m pretty sure the protagonist, Kafka, goes to Malta or a country nearby, while in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, one of the people Toru meets is Malta Kano, who lived on the island of Malta for a while. Then, of course, there is Toru’s cat who goes missing, while in Kafka on the Shore cats play a large role, too. And there are probably more themes that I missed.

While I found The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles a satifactory read, I’m 100% sure I missed lots of references and lots of links between parts of the story. Rather than trying to figure it out for myself, I hope someone else has the answers for me, if there are any answers, that is.

Rating: 5/5 and a favorite

I got this book: from The Book Depository as I wanted to own it. I read it for the Japanese Literature Challenge

I read this in: English, the original language is Japanese.

Extra: Also check out my review of Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami

Japanese Literature Challenge

Other reviews:

Lucybird’s Book Blog

In Dutch- Elsje Las

Let me link to yours!

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

36 Responses to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

  1. elsje says:

    Great review! Krijg er helemaal zin van om de Opwindvogelkronieken te gaan herlezen… Maar eerst wil ik Murakami’s hele oeuvre gelezen hebben. After Dark ligt op me te wachten en daarna nog De olifant verdwijnt en natuurlijk 1q84…

    • leeswammes says:

      Dank je, Elsje. Ik vond het echt een geweldig boek. After Dark is ook mooi maar dat verhaal snapte ik nog minder dan de kronieken en dat schiet ook niet op. De Olifant moet ik geloof ik nog (met verhalen weet ik het nooit zo) en die 1q84, daar wacht ik liever op de paperback. De hardback is te dik voor mij (een enorm boek, zoals vaak met NLse vertalingen).

  2. lucybirdbooks says:

    I love this book. It’s my favourite Murakami so far (although I’ve only read two). I have Kafka on the Shore on my TBR pile.

    My review http://lucybirdbooks.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/the-wind-up-bird-chronicle-haruki-murakami/

    Thanks for this, it makes me want to read Murakami again.

  3. seachanges says:

    I am also a big fan of Murakami’s writing but haven’t read this one yet. You’re encouraging me to pick up some more of his books. A great review, however, cannot help you (yet) with resolving the different links and puzzles!

    • leeswammes says:

      I’m not sure I mind, seachanges, not knowing about all the possible connections in the story. It’s a great book, I think and I hope you have a chance to read it soon.

  4. This review was excellent. Glad to hear that you are a big fan.

    I am in the process of listening to the audio version, read by Rupert Degas (who is amazing). I am very addicted to the story. I also have the print copy and am really involved in both.

    I just finished Dance, Dance, Dance (audio-same reader) last week, and it too was very good. This will be my 3rd Murakami, having listened to After Dark earlier in the year.

    • leeswammes says:

      Bibliophile, how funny you’re reading (well, listening to) the same book at the same time. At 600 small-printed pages (my copy), I bet the audio is going to take a while. Glad you’re enjoying it too. So you are a new fan?

  5. Suzanne says:

    I have been sadly lacking in exposure to Japanese literature. I’ve heard of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but didn’t know what it was about — your review is a great help and I’m going to add it to the to-read list.

    • leeswammes says:

      There is some great Japanese literature around, Suzanne. I haven’t really explored enough authors, but I hope to read some more. Out by Natsuo Kirino is on my list, which I’m planning to read soon.

  6. chasing bawa says:

    This was also the first novel by Murakami I read and I loved it:) Although it was big and intense and there were some scenes that have been burned into my brain (eg the skinning scene) I thought it was amazing and so different from the books I was reading at the time. I’m glad you’ve tried his other books as have I. My favourite of his novels is Norwegian Wood followed by this one then Kafka on the Shore. I never realised Murakami was so popular in The Netherlands.

    • leeswammes says:

      Chasing Bawa, indeed, some scenes I will never forget (didn’t forget from the first time I read it). Murakami is quite popular here, more so than in England, where I lived for a long time. I’m afraid Norwegian Wood which I read last year or the year before didn’t stick with me, I remember very little of it. I love A Wild Sheep Chase!

  7. Rachel says:

    I love this novel. This was also my first Murakami and I know that I will re-visit it again, over the years. It’s just one of those books… your review has me wanting to read it again, now!🙂

    • leeswammes says:

      Rachel, it seems lots of people started with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I think it was one of his first books to be translated in English.

      Ha ha, so you want to re-read it now? I wanted to and I did!🙂

  8. I liked this book but not as much as Kafka on the Shore, which is on my “one day I’ll re-read some books” list. I think you’re right about all the references and links but I can’t remember any now. This is why I started writing reviews!

  9. This sounds so fantastic, I have never read this author.

  10. Amanda says:

    It’s great to see a review of Murakami- I’ve never read anything by this author but I keep meaning to! Maybe this will be a good place to start….

    • leeswammes says:

      Amanda, I know several people who started with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as their first Murakami book and they have become great fans – like me. Give him a try (or start off with a smaller book).

  11. I’m a big Murakami fan and I loved the first section of this book, but found the last third a bit weird. I wasn’t that impressed when I finished the book, but with hindsight I am loving it more and more -those war sections were especially powerful. The great thing is that the more you think about it, the better it becomes. It will probably become a favourite if I re-read it.

    • leeswammes says:

      Jackie, I remember that the first time, I also found the end a bit weird. Even though I didn’t remember all that much about the book, this time I had no problem with it. Maybe because I’m more used to Murakami now. I have read quite a few of his books. Was this also one of your first Murakami books?

  12. No. I think this was my fourth Murakami. It is strange because I loved the weirdness of Kafka and Wild Sheep Chase, but for some reason I didn’t connect with the end of WUBC. It is good to know that you had the same problem the first time that you read it. Perhaps it just requires a reread to make sense?

    • leeswammes says:

      Yes, I don’t really know. Maybe. Also, I remembered the brother in law having a much bigger role than he in fact had in the book. So I remembered that wrong.

  13. Alex says:

    Murakami is on my list of “authors everyone thinks I must like, but don’t”. But to be honest, I’ve only ever tried Norwagian Wood…

    • leeswammes says:

      Hmm, Alex. We can’t all like the same authors! Norwegian Wood is one that is not very memorable to me, so not one of my favorites by Murakami. But I’m not going to suggest you read something else by him. There are enough other good books in the world!

  14. Nadine Nys says:

    I’m ashamed to say I have not read anything by Murakami yet, but after reading your review he is in the top 5 of my TBR-list. Thanks!

  15. Mel u says:

    I really liked Wild Bird Chronicles a lot-I thought the WWII sections were just so great-if you are interested in WWII in Japan I totally loved One Man’s Justice by Akira Yosimura-it centers on a man who executes an American soldier after the war and what happens to him after the war-it is a neglected master piece, in my opinion-I enjoyed your post a lot and hope to read Hard Boiled Wonderland soon

    • leeswammes says:

      Thanks for the recommendation, Mel! I don’t search out WWII stories normally, but in the Wind-Up Bird Chronicles it was very well done and I found it interesting. I will try and find the book you mentioned.

  16. I’ve only read Kafka on the Shore, and I’ve been on the fence about reading another book by this author. But you make this sound so wonderful!🙂

    • leeswammes says:

      To me, laughingatstars66, it was an absolutely wonderful book. But we can’t all like the same writers, so maybe Murakami isn’t quite for you. You could try his short stories, just to try again.

  17. Najela says:

    I really loved this novel too. It was a quiet novel, nothing overly dramatic happens, but it’s so full of rich characters, dialogue, and storytelling that I was willing to read it through to the end. This book was on my reading list for a while, but I would have never picked it up as quickly if I hadn’t had to read it for class. It’s my favorite novel of the class so far.

    I definitely want to make the time to read more of his novels. It was like reading a grown up version of a Miyazaki movie…

    • leeswammes says:

      Hey, Najela! A book for class that you really liked? That’s how I like to see it. Wind-Up Bird is great! I don’t know Miyazaki but it sounds it should look into it. Read more Murakami – he has lots of other great books!

  18. Fiona says:

    I love Miyazaki – and I’ve always thought if you like Murakami you’d like Miyazaki.

    Did you get around to watching any of his?

    Miyazaki is an awesome anime director/writer… you don’t have to like Japanese anime, or ever watch other anime… Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki productions are one of a kind.

    I recommend….

    Nausicca, My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, Ponyo being my favourites. But then most of them are. Like Murakami they have their own sorta sideways quirks.

    I also recommend Graveyard of Fireflies which is a more adult, more serious historical movie about the aftermath of ww2 and very depressing.

    Anyway… been wanting to re-read Wind-up for a while now. It was my second Murakami and I think I’d appreciate it a lot more now I am more acquainted with his work. When I read it I spent too long trying to understand it… when I think it’s best to just let the book come to you.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Thanks for the recommendations, Fiona. No, I don’t know Miyazaki. I will look into him. Thanks.

      You’re right, you shouldn’t try too hard to understand Murakami’s books, just let it all happen!

  19. Pingback: Boek recensie: De kleurloze Tsukuru Tazaki en zijn pelgrimsjaren door Haruki Murakami | De Boekblogger

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