Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage" by Haruki Murakami

Tsukuru Tazaki is a studious, solitary man. Always fascinated by railway stations (he finds simply sitting in a crowded train station, watching the trains and the passengers come and go), he lives in Tokyo, working as an engineer building and renovating stations. He doesn't really have any friends, and has really only had a few romantic relationships with women.

When Tsukuru was in high school, he had four very close friends—two boys, the rugged, athletic Ao, and the studious, shy Aka; and two girls, the talented, beautiful Shiro, and the equally enigmatic but less vibrant Kuro. The five were tremendously close and inseparable throughout high school, forming a perfect harmonious unit. But as much as Tsukuru reveled in the friendships, he always felt a bit like the odd man out, and wondered what his friends gained from him. He was the only one to leave their hometown of Nagoya to go to college, yet whenever he returned home, the five quickly came together again.

Yet one day during college, everything changed. Tsukuru received a call from one of his friends telling him they never wanted to see him again, offering no explanation. He was devastated by this loss, and for some time thought he might die. Although he was able to bounce back, complete his studies, and pursue a successful career, his life was forever shaped by this sudden loss of his friends, and he wondered whether it was his own flaws that caused this friction.

As an adult, when Tsukuru meets Sara, and is interested in pursuing a relationship with her, he tells her about his old friends, and how that loss affected his life. She encourages him to find them and understand why they cut him off without any explanation. His search for answers re-opens old wounds and revives old anxieties, but it also surprises Tsukuru, and teaches him things about himself he never imagined.

It's been a while since I've read a book by Haruki Murakami, and while the book definitely has a meditative tone, it's one of Murakami's most straightforward books in quite some time. If you've ever felt like you don't fit in, ever wondered whether people truly care about you or just say they do, or ever lost friends for reasons you haven't understood, this is definitely a book you'll identify with. It makes you think about the paths our lives take, and how our interactions with friends when we're young affect us in ways we never truly understand.

Murakami is a tremendously talented writer. His prose is incredibly evocative, and I really thought the characters in this book were very well drawn. The book captivated me from start to finish, although the plot unfolded slowly. If I had any criticism of the book, it's that it left a few subplots hanging, particularly a friendship Tsukuru had that ended without reason. But on the whole, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage was fascinating and a really worthwhile read.

1 comment:

  1. I skimmed your review carefully, (as I'm planning to start this book tonight), checking to see if you liked it or not.
    You did!
    Cant wait.