Kafka On The Shore
Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel
Pages: 467 Published: 2005 (English translation)
The book: On his fifteenth birthday, Kafka Tamura, although perhaps that’s not his real name, runs away from his home in Tokyo to a town four hundred and fifty miles away. He leaves behind his father, with whom he has a fraught relationship. He may or may not be searching for his lost mother and sister.
In this novel you will meet an array of unusual characters. Nothing is quite what it seems and what it seems is often strange. There’s Mr. Nakata, a simple, old man, who can converse with talking cats, a character who dresses like the Johnnie Walker figure one finds on whisky bottles, a strange X-Files-type happening in a mystery town, and a magic stone that might have mystical powers.
The plot twists and turns, taking the reader backward and forward in time between spirit worlds and strange dimensions.
You might like it because: The writing is beautiful, rich, vivid and often philosophical. The surreal characters and lives they inhabit are extremely compelling. The plot, marvelous and unpredictable, pulls you further and further into the book and the strange world created by Murakami. There’s so much here that, like me, you might want to read it again and again.
What did other people say?
“Anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it’s the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel we are dreaming it ourselves.” – The New York Times Book Review
“Murakami has set out to have serious fun, capturing history, myth, hearsay, and the pulse of modern Japanese life in the fish-eye lens of his own protean vision.” – Elle
Awards & Recognition:
2006 Winner of the World Fantasy Award – Novel.
2006 PEN Translation Prize (formerly the PEN/Book-of-the-month Club Translation Prize) for Philip Gabriel’s translation of the book into English.
How quickly will you get into the book? The first chapter takes us straight into the story; there’s no preamble. The dialogue pulled me in right away.
You might not like it because: Sardines and mackerels rain down from the sky, living and dead spirits appear, and doorways to other worlds are opened and closed. It’s full of analogies, symbolism and mysteries. It’s like being in a metaphysical dream. If you like complete clarity and dislike ambiguity, this is not the novel for you. If you want your plot lines tied up in a neat, easy-to-explain bow at the end of the book, then you won’t like this.
What might you read next?
If the strange spirit worlds conjured up by Murakami appealed to you, then read Tales of Moonlight and Rain. A Japanese classic, it’s a collection of nine supernatural stories by Japanese author Ueda Akinari, which was first published in 1776.
If the plot twists, strange happenings and other worlds have left you craving order, then you could try The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo.
Enjoy reading books where you can’t tell where reality ends and fantasy begins? Then read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.