Book Review – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami

tsukuru

Facts:

  •    Book: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
  •    Author: Haruki Murakami
  •    Genre: Fiction
  •    Year of Release: 2014
  •    Read 386-page hardcover edition in December 2015.
  •    Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel.

Book Description:

Award-winning novelist Haruki Murakami tells the painful and complicated story of Tsukuru Tazaki, now a 36-year old, introspective, sad, independent person, with few, if any, friendships.  As he goes about his day job in downtown Tokyo, he considers what has brought his life to this point, and recollects the happier memories of high school days, when he and four friends made up a close group of five happy teenagers.  But something shocking and dramatic occurred which led to Tsukuru being cut out from the group.  That something may be unearthed as Tsukuru goes back into his past for understanding, so he can move forward in the present.

Book Review:

This was a complicated novel to review.  On the one hand, there are many positive things to say about it.  On the other hand, a couple of major issues with content in the plot leave it wanting.

Focusing on the many high points of the novel, one was the overall story itself.  For the most part, the author did a fantastic job of creating suspense and intrigue in the beginning, and then heightening the tension as we read through the novel, leading up to revelations in the middle and towards the end.  The result was a page turner of a novel that was enjoyable and fun to read.

Furthermore, the author did a nice job describing Japan, and giving us a sense of things such as Tokyo train and rail stations, city buildings, and the style and dress of white collar employees in Japan.  The author also did great research in preparing how to describe scenery of urban and rural Finland, which comes into play in the novel, and the mix of dialogue and setting description feels right for this story.

The characters we meet are diverse, and the author does a nice job of describing five high school students with various life goals and personality traits, but then coming back to them and showing us how their lives have changed and grown and become more complicated in the 20 or so years since they left high school.  Issues are nicely explored, such as the complexities of lgbt sexuality in conservative cities, how one really makes decisions, money versus happiness.

In general, the novel is a fun, suspenseful read, with a plot that makes you want to learn what happened, and gives you some chills and worries along the way.

That all being said, there were a couple items that took away from the novel overall.  One of these was the fact that there were a couple of substantial chunks in the early middle of the book which didn’t end up playing into the conclusion of the novel, and which didn’t provide us with clear understanding as to why they were even included.  The inclusion of the character Haida, and the story of the man playing the piano, were substantial time investments on the part of the author, yet we never saw fully how these were incorporated into the larger story of Tsukuru.  This made these sections feel disjointed looking back.

Furthermore, on the subject of Haida, and also with the burgeoning relationship Tsukuru may or may not have with Sara, it felt like story lines and plot threads were left unfinished and unanswered.  It wasn’t the way things are left for a possible sequel, but rather it felt like significant pieces of storyline were simply not wrapped up satisfactorily.

In conclusion, although there is much to like about this novel, there were also some key issues that served to pull this book back from the exceptional category.

Overall: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.

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