I have always liked jazz music but I don’t think I qualify as a fan. But this book seems like a jazz symphony to me (I’m kind of clueless about jazz. Is there something like a “jazz symphony?”) It’s smooth, mysterious and leaves you thirsting for more.
I firmly believe that you don’t choose your books; the books choose you. Yeah, I’m one of them people who think that there is no such thing as a coincidence. So, this SOTBWFTS (short form, bidu) was a gift from a friend on my birthday.
Anyways, I jumped on the novel like a piece of cake: long denied, much remembered. Since it’s a slim volume, I’m done with it in 9 hours with equally slim breaks in between.
At first, you wonder where is the story going? But I’m as usual getting ahead of myself. The story is of an average man, Hajime, who cannot forget the superbly mysterious and beautiful Shimamoto (ironically, he can’t remember her first name: this is her last name.) Hajime meets Shimamoto in kindergarten and they both bond over the fact that they are “only” children of their parents. It’s a beautiful friendship with music playing (quite literally, since they listen to music most of the time) a major part in their friendship. Polio-infected Shimamoto is the one girl who makes a very deep impression on his young mind. When Shimamoto moves out of his life, Hajime goes on with his life in a very on-the-surface manner. He does the regular things: school, high school sweetheart, college, a dead-end job, find the girl who would be his wife, dabble in business, and become successful. But you get the feeling that something is missing. When one day a stunning woman walks into his club on a rainy evening, everything changes. The woman is Shimamoto. Now, looking more stunning than ever. Hajime is torn between an average life and his prospects with Shimamoto. She appears on rainy evenings to tantalise him. One day, just when he makes a choice, she disappears forever.
Hajime is the everyman in this novel. It’s his life we identify with. Shimamoto is the symbol of all that we want and cannot have. She appears from time to time in our lives teasing us with the prospect. But she is like the rain: she can appear but she cannot stay. If she does, she will destroy everything. And the novel is a testiment to the fact that her short stay was quite destructive for the protagonist.
This novel is considered to be one of his most mature works. I couldn’t help but compare it with Norwegian Wood. The youth flavour of Norwegian Wood is not to be seen here. But what you can see is a mature writer and a mature man. It’s like a sequel to Norwegian Wood. Naoko grows up and become Shimamoto. Toru and Hajime are the same – the passive protagonist –appearing again and again in all Murakami novels. Even in a very adventurous novel like The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, the protagonist remains the calm guy who makes spaghetti. All Murakami protagonists wait for life to happen to them, somehow calm, somehow untouched like the eye of the storm.
All the references to music especially Jazz are there usual. It makes the story all the more poignant. This is not one of them rambunctious novels that use mind-bending narrative pyrotechnics to tell the story and grab the attention of the reader. It’s one of those quiet books that makes a deep impression on your mind. It sure did on mine.
Rating: : * * * * * = Khallas (Deadly)
My Rating System:
* * * * * = Khallas (Deadly)
* * * * = Bindaas (Great)
* * * = Jhakaas (Good)
* * = Timepass(Okay)
* = Bakwaas (Avoid it)