Why I won’t be reading Murakami’s new book: a review of Kafka on the Shore

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts


Fifteen-year-old Kafka Tamura runs away from home trying to escape his father and an Oedipal prophecy, with a plan to find and live in a library, which happens remarkably easily. Meanwhile a sidelined Mr Nakata talks to cats on the quest to find a lost one, but finds himself drawn into strange and terrifying circumstances.

I really, really enjoy Murakami’s writing. After hearing of him for years I embarked on his 1Q84 trilogy in my summer holiday last year, and I was spellbound. Those novels and this take place in our world but are filled with fantastical fantasy elements that blend in beautifully, creating a surreal atmosphere where the rules are never quite defined.

Most of my knowledge of life and the world comes from novels, and I enjoyed the chance to get to know more about Japan: the culture, people and custom, in all of these books. And with a large proportion of the frequent and rather post-modern cultural references being familiar (Oedipus, Kafka, Haydn…) they were not at all difficult to identify with.

The plot unravelled grippingly and interestingly, using the fairly standard device of seemingly disparate characters and scenes gradually coming together. But the resolution is far from complete; at the end readers are left knowing these things are linked but not really sure how or why. There is a sense of someone or something driving the various happenings, but again no conclusive answers of who or what. I don’t think I mind this, as it gives a chance for a story to be a story but it could be frustrating to some readers.

So in general, I really liked both this book and the others I read.

BUT the reason I won’t be reading anything more by Murakami is the sex scenes. They were frequent in 1Q84, but I decided to see if this was any different. It wasn’t. The scenes are too often and too graphic, and don’t even add anything to the book.

In both books, they’re written in to form necessary parts of the plot, which probably means Murakami has some theory a or idea about the role of sex, but even if this is the case, for me they spoil the books. He could easily write them less graphically, or even skip them altogether. I can remember finishing 1Q84 and wishing I could recommend it to people – but the sex scenes stopped me.

So no more Murakami for me. BUT I got a whole pile of other books from the library for my holiday…

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