The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle -- Haruki Murakami
This book is my 6th Murakami novel. I've read half of the short stories published in one of his volumes too.
I made the decision to jump straight on to Wind-Up Bird after Sheep Chase (another of his novels). Bird is a big book. Okay, at 600-something pages it's not a tome that's going to give you wrist strain, but what I'm saying is that this book feels big. It reads as a long book, it's very slow to get going. Pages and chapters don't go down quickly, and there's not a lot of depth to them either. There is suspense at the end of the chapter – as in most of his stuff I've read -- only to open with a disappointing conclusion next chapter.
This is hailed as Murakami's best thus far. Well, I've seen it said that this is “his most accomplished”. A lot of the material here started off as short stories, seen in the pages of literary magazines and the like. It's interesting that the Japanese and English versions of the book differ; different chapters are in some; the content is chopped up and moved about all over the place.
There is some fantastic writing in this book, and there is also some extremely mundane filler content that really feels like the book was an experiment of short stories trying to be sewn together. For someone that's had a fair share of Murakami's stuff, perhaps I was able to see where the threading in this book lay.
You'll find yourself reading letters from a 16 year old, a main plot that never quite satisfies your thirst, recollections of the Russo-Japanese war by an old man, with a meagre sprinkling of surrealism. Once you uncover the details of the recipe, you're left with a taste of something that never quite hit the spot, but leaves you hungry for more of the content that respectively held itself as a decent short story in its own right.