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

If you’ve never read any Haruki Murakami, it’s tricky to describe his style. And at the risk of causing the book-blogging corner of the interwebs to implode, his style is not really my cup of tea.

South of the Border, West of the Sun tells of Hajime, a middle-aged man reflecting on his youth and in particular, his relationship with Shimamoto, a fellow only-child and his only true friend.

The story is simple but oddly melodramatic; the narrative jumps all over the place – from the minutiae of daily routine to broad generalisations about life; the characters reveal deeply personal thoughts and yet are strangely detached.

“The hands of the clock run in only one direction. I started talking to myself, drinking alone at night. I was sure I would never get married.”

“What would become of me tomorrow I did not know. Buying my daughter a horse – the idea took on an unexpected urgency. I had to buy it for her before things disappeared. Before the world fell to pieces.”

There were snatches of writing that made me pause – “…some feelings cause us pain because they remain…”, and I understand that there are distinct themes and carefully chosen analogies throughout the story but regardless, it was a spectacularly bad choice for me to read on the beach.

2.5/5 Sorry fans, I didn’t like it much.

Hajime owns a jazz bar where they serve a signature rum and vodka cocktail – “It’s easy going down, but it packs a wallop.” I suspect this one would do the same.












12 responses

  1. I read his IQ84. When people asked me if I would recommend it, I wasn’t sure what to say. There is a lot about the book that is interesting, inventive. But there is also a whole lot of focus on mundane, repetitive details. I suppose he does that for a reason, but the book was something like 1000 pages. The repetitive details really started to annoy me, so I see what you mean in your comments.

  2. I have this one one my bookshelf, picked it up at a library sale. Sorry to hear you didn’t like it so much. I loved The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, was a little less excited by Norwegian Wood. If you’ve read a lot by him, what are your favorites?

    • I read Wind Up a long time ago (which is why I had this one and IQ84 in the TBR stack). Can’t recall much about it but there must have been some element that I enjoyed!

  3. I’ve read quite a bit of Murakami, but I didn’t feel inspired to tackle IQ84. I do like him though, including his more out there stuff. But I usually recommend people start with something more straightforward like NORWEGIAN WOOD. It’s a good read and good introduction to Murakami.

  4. I liked Kafka on the Shore but absolutely hated Norwegian Wood. I think it was possibly one of the worst books I’ve read in the last year. I do want to read more as I am told NW is not representative of his work. I don’t think I’ll be picking up this one…

  5. The verdict is still out on Murakami for me… I’ve only read Norwegian Wood, and certainly enjoyed it, but there were parts that felt incredibly self indulgent, and I found myself quite bored. I’ll likely pick up something else by him eventually, but it’s not at the top of my list. Maybe he’s just one of those love him, or not type authors.

  6. I’ve put off trying anything by Murakami for years because I’ve heard just how different his style is. I read somewhere that Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is a good one when you’re first starting out with him so I think I’ll start there… whenever that happens. haha

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