Tag: Reads

Haruki Murakami – The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle | Review

Title: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Author: Haruki Murakami

Type: Fiction

Page Count: 628

Rating: 4.5/5

I picked up this book as a buddy read with my friend Charlie, who’s also an excellent author in his own right. Buddy reads are almost always more fun than regular reads, but I think I would have still enjoyed this one regardless. That said, it did have at least one other impact because we read it three chapters a day instead of all in one go, and I think that helped me to take it a little more slowly and to savour it.

And there was plenty to savour here. Possibly one of my favourites was also the most brutal scene, in which someone got skinned alive with all the efficiency of someone peeling a peach. Murakami is a truly talented writer no matter what he’s writing about, which in this case meant that the whole scene was horrifically realistic, right down to the way that the man screamed.

I also like the sort of slight hallucinatory quality that the book has. It’s almost like a series of interrelated vignettes as opposed to a traditional novel, but it works really well and gives you something different as a reader that you might not have been expecting. I’ve read Murakami a bunch of times before of course, but he takes things in a slightly different direction here.

There’s almost something timeless about the storytelling here, and you have to give Murakami credit for that. Credit is also very much due to Jay Rubin too, who’s the translator here. I was stoked to see that when I picked it up because Rubin is my favourite Murakami translator. I was excited to see that right on the credits page, and the book just kept on getting better from there.

Another memorable series of scenes are those that took place at the bottom of wells. There was something deeply disturbing about those scenes, and you could really sense the claustrophobia. To be honest, it’s making me feel a little bit weird just thinking back to them.

What’s interesting about Murakami is that he has this knack of writing stories that are slow paced and meandering but which still definitely go somewhere. They’re the kind of books where it feels like anything can happen, and that’s what makes Murakami so readable. This here feels as though it might be his equivalent of The Stand, and there’s certain that kind of epic quality to it.

But perhaps it’s more like Cloud Atlas or something like that, because it all takes place in our own world and there are none of the supernatural hijinks that come along with Stephen King, who I guess is the closest I can think of to Murakami when it comes to making fictional characters seem realistic while writing about the darker sides of humanity.

To be honest, when I got started on this book, all I knew about it was that it was a Murakami novel and that Charlie wanted to read it. I think I had a slight subconscious knowledge of it being quite a popular one amongst Murakami fans, but that’s about it. I’m glad that the buddy read gave me the impetus to pick it up and to order a copy in rather than just waiting until I spotted it in a charity shop.

So would I recommend this one? Oh hell yeah, I was very impressed by it. It might be kind of long if you’re new to Murakami, and I think most people probably start out with Norwegian Wood, but I think this book is a cracker no matter who wrote it. The fact that it’s a translation just makes it cooler.

Learn more about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

 


Bill Bryson – Notes from a Big Country | Review

Title: Notes from a Big Country

Author: Bill Bryson

Type: Non-Fiction

Page Count: 320

Rating: 4/5

This book is basically a collection of short columns that Bryson wrote after returning to live in America after spending most of his life in the UK. Because of that, it has a lot of insights to offer on the cultural differences between the two countries. Better still, it still mostly holds true today, despite the fact that it’s now a little dated. In fact, there was a reference in there about programming a VCR.

For the most part, though, I thought this was a lot of fun, and Bryson’s sense of humour is on top form. Believe it or not, I’ve actually found him to be a little bit whiny in some of the previous books of his that I’ve read, but he’s back at his best again here and to be honest, this was just what I needed at just the time that I needed it.

I guess that’s because it was easy to read through and I got through the whole thing in just a couple of days. I’m trying to get through the last of the books on my unread pile and so I was kind of worried that the only books that I’d have left would be boring reads that couldn’t hold my attention. And then I picked this one up and it was just a true joy.

I think part of that is because of the format of the book, which is essentially a collection of articles that Bryson wrote for the newspapers. That keeps it short and sweet and while there’s no overall theme other than the investigation of America through the eyes of an ex-pat, other than that it’s all just a bunch of fun little vignettes. And what is there for you not to like about that?

Learn more about Notes from a Big Country.