Book Review: “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami


(Image courtesy of PopMatters)

This is a blog post from last February – I found it in my drafts and decided to post it.

Murakami is like J.K. Rowlings or Stephen King here, and his books are highly anticipated and sell over 1 million copies in the first few days. It is good to find out for myself, why he is so popular.

I read this book over a cold weekend in February of 2014, which in contrast to his last book 1Q84, is quite short. I could not put the book down and was entertained by the story. Murakami usually has a mystery or plot twists that keep readers wanting more. I have now read four books by him and I see recurring themes, as one reviewer noted, with his Murakami bingo card.The reviewer joked you can always find the same things referenced in all his books, like Murakami always mentions songs to form a sort of a soundtrack for the story. 

After reading however, I wasn’t swept away by the book. The main character, Tazaki, has some serious self esteem issues, that I don’t see happening to a financially successful man in his mid-thirties. He also has some emotional blocks about things that happened in high school, which I cannot believe were not resolved or at least explored more at the time. In the story, the pilgrimage is to go find his high school friends after 16 years to discuss an incident that occurred ended their group friendship.

It is nice to live in Japan and understand more his references to daily life here, and it makes the book more enjoyable. He did insert some “magic realism” with a story about a man who carried “death” in a bag, which really had no bearing on the plot. I got burned out on magic realism after 5 years in Colombia and multiple Garcia Marquez books.

I would recommend the book as it is not a big investment in time and a page-turner.  A special thanks to the former OIS librarian Chieko for getting the English translation so quickly in the library.

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