First of all, since Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author, I believe that there were some things lost in translation while reading the English version of the Wind-up Bird Chronicle. This book is over 600 pages long and took me a month to finish. Not only was it a lengthy novel, it was also a difficult book with so many metaphors to decipher, and so many sub-plots to stitch together. The story may seem a little confusing for some readers, and the central theme is quite difficult to gather. There were loose ends that were not fully resolved up to the last pages.
Hope is one of the more glaring main ideas that the story is trying to impart. Toru Okada, the main character, just lost three things in life — his job, his cat and later on his wife. As he set out everyday in search of the missing essentials (with no intention to demean), he met several ladies each with her own eccentricities. Through constant dealings with these ladies, Toru comes to some sort of introspection and analyzes the life he led lately. He is brought to terms with his own insecurities. Being jobless and losing a wife who claims to have fallen in love with another man were both initially overbearing. And this is where the complexities in the story started. Burdened with problems, Toru becomes an unreliable narrator, mixing realities with his dreams and vice versa. But one thing was apparent. Throughout his rollercoaster problems, Toru kept one constant in his life, and that was his undying love for his wife.
Toru showed hints of positivism and hope in his ordeal. One subtle hint was when his cat unexpectedly found its way back home. He and his wife named this cat Noboru Wataya, after a man they abhorred. When the cat returned home, he immediately changed its name to Mackerel, the brand of a cat food. It was then just as soon as he decided to let go of his worn out tennis shoes that he wore everyday, and buy a new pair. He was now having a different perspective at his problems. A year passed by with no signs of his wife coming back, yet he carried on with his life and remained steadfast in getting his love back.
There were parallel tones of hope retold in Toru’s friend named Lt. Mamiya, a former Japanese lieutenant who served during the Russia-Japan War in Manchuria in the 1900s. Lt. Mamiya witnessed a great deal of suffering from the Russians but believed in his heart that he could one day return to his homeland alive. In a lot of ways, Toru found strength in Mamiya’s experiences during the war, and this urged him to go on believing that his wife will one day return.
In the course of finding a lost love, Toru slowly found himself along with his inadequacies and weaknesses. It was not an easy re-acquaintance. He brought to the fore a mediocre guy who was in between jobs, and was dumped by a wife for a “better” man. At one point, I can say that he was becoming delusional which made me say he is unreliable. His dreams were mixing with reality. What he claimed to have seen may not have been so.
I highly recommend this book especially if you are a patient reader and fond of connect-the-dots game. The author is fond of surrealistic plots, and this is evident in this particular book. If it takes you a longer time to read it than usual, it doesn’t mean it is boring. In fact, there is a lot to absorb so that it will kind of slow you down in flipping the pages. The Wind-up Bird Chronicles definitely reflects the writing ingenuity of Haruki Murakami.