Friday, August 15, 2014

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage; Haruki Murakami

Knopf - Random House Audio
August - 2014

When I first heard about  Murakami's new novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, I admit that was a little put off by the title, but after finishing the book in just two days, I must say that afterward I felt the title was perfect. 

The story begins with the title character, Tsukuru Tazaki, in his 30's, depressed and contemplating suicide.

"From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.  He turned twenty during this time, but this special watershed--becoming an adult--meant nothing.  Taking his own life seemed the most natural solution, and even now he couldn't say why he hadn't taken this final step.  Crossing that threshold between life and death would have been easier than swallowing down a slick, raw egg.

Perhaps he didn't commit suicide then because he couldn't conceive of a method that fit the pure and intense feelings he had toward death.  But method was beside the point.  If there had been a door within reach that lead straight to death, he wouldn't have hesitated to push it open,without a second thought, as if it were just a part of ordinary life. For better or for worse, though, there was no such door nearby."

In his teens, Tsukuru Tazaki  formed a friendship with 4 other teens. 2 males and 2 females.  Of the group, he was the only one who did not have a "color" in his name.  While his friends were very good students, Tsukuru's grades were average. He wasn't a sport's fan, and really there wasn't anything special about him, his family, however, was the most affluent of the group. 
 
Since Tsukuru always had an interest in trains, when it came time for college, he went to Tokyo to study engineering, hoping to have a career designing train stations and railroads.

In the summer of his sophomore year when he returned home during his college break, he called his friends. One call, two calls, three calls and no response. Finally one of his former friends announces, "I'm sorry but don't call us."  Without explanation, he had been banished from the merry group of five. Somewhat insecure anyways, this event sends Tsukuru into a downward spiral making him feel even more insignificant than before.  He loses weight and his body begins to take on the look of someone much older.

Then one night after a strange dream changes everything. Tsukuru awoke from the dream feeling as if his dark days had disappeared, but he still had a "colorless" empty feeling that remained. He did the same things each day, but yet he felt different. Remaining in Tokyo a woman he is seeing, Kimoto Sara, suggests that to help him get on with his life, he needs to get some resolution to the traumatic event that still haunts him. She feels he has too much baggage that he needs to unload, and suggests he seek out his former friends and get to the bottom of why they ended their friendship with him.  Since Sara works at a travel agency, she helps him track down his friends, 16 years after the fact. He learns some startling things as he connects with them individually, except for one (who has died).

I really enjoyed this novel. It didn't feel as surreal as some of the author's other books, but it was fully engaging, and enjoyable.  A few erotic dreams, a conversation with a stranger that vanishes, all add to the mystique of the story.  The third person POV worked well, and, even though Tsukuru's former friends were less developed that I had hoped, I was glad that he was able to eventually connect with them, even though none of them were individuals I care for. Instead, for me, his reconnecting with these individuals was a reminder of how our early interactions and the cruelty of others can deeply scar us for life. I liked the way they author wrapped up this story with Tsukuru reflecting on his life, I was satisfied with the ending, but readers who like all the loose ends neatly tied might be a tad disappointed.

The narrative flowed extremely well with both the eBook and the audiobook thanks to great translation by Philip Gabriel. The audiobook reader, Bruce Locke was amazing as well.

Read it!  5/5 stars
(eGalley and audiobook)

18 comments:

  1. I had seen this book around but had no idea what it was about. Great review and one that intrigues me.

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  2. I've never read this author but no so many people who love his (her) work. You've made this sound very appealing!

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  3. Kathy, his one would be a good one to start with IMO. Not as obscure as a few of his other books.

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  4. That title is reaal strange.

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  5. I am soooo loving this. I'm reading it very,very slowly so as not to finish it soon; I've been waiting months for it to arrive. Anyway, so glad you love it, too.

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  6. A great review Diane, a new author to me. It is on my reading list now. Thank you!

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  7. I still haven't read IQ84 but I might just pick this one up soon anyway because it sounds great!

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  8. This sounds really interesting. I had seen but not "heard" about it before. I now want to read. Emma

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  9. I need to read more Murakami. He has always been on my TBR list but other than Kafka on the Shore, I haven't read anymore by him.

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  10. I just finished this one. I think I'm falling a bit differently than you did. I'm hoping to have my review up by Monday.

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  11. Sounds interesting. Great review!

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  12. Diane, this sounds (sorry to use this overused word) intriguing. I enjoyed your review, and am glad you enjoyed this audiobook. :-)

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  13. Oh wow, you finished in only two days. Must have really been awesome. I have the audio, but it's still a few books down the list.

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  14. So glad you loved this, Diane. I've yet to read Murakami, but have After Dark on my shelf. Have you read that one? Wondering where to start...

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  15. That "surreal" feeling that seems to often be used to describe one of Murakami's novels is what puts me off from picking up his books, I admit, even though I do want to try his work at some point. Glad to hear this one is less surreal. It maybe the place to start!

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  16. I read your review on the look out for spoilers, so I will come back for a closer read when I finish the book (about half way through and enjoying the readalong with Bellezza & co.)

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  17. I've been thinking it's time to read another Murakami; maybe this will be the one!

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