I love being recommended books. I think the type of book that people recommend you is so indicative of their personality, and to a further extent the relationship you share with them. So, when a very talented artist and high-school friend, Chloe, recommended that I read Kafka in the Shore by Haruki Murakami (a book which had been waiting on my bookshelf for several months) I had no choice but to dive in.
I have to say from the start, this book was not what I expected. It follows the story of a 15 year old boy who has run away from his home in Tokyo and taken the name ‘Kafka’. Kafka is truly unlike any other 15 year old, in fact, he’s attempting to be the world’s toughest 15 year old as he ventures across Japan accompanied by the mysterious ‘Boy named Crow’. I read a lot, so when I find a book that breaks conventional narrative standards I really enjoy delving into the text and experiencing the unique form.
Every novel is unique in its own way, but Murakami’s style is beautiful in a way I had never experienced before. It has this delicate flow as it takes you from one incident to the next. This flow was really important for me, particularly because this 500 page novel is crammed full of mystery and questions, some of which are never answered, leaving you to wonder if you ever really understood what was happening at all. In general, I like to be in control when reading. My boyfriend will tell you that I have a somewhat annoying habit of guessing storylines before they come to fruition. Often when watching a movie I will be able to pick out the characters who are going to die in the first few minutes. I think that’s a skill I’ve picked up from a lifetime of reading and a three year writing degree. However, my uncanny skill was completely useless while reading Kafka on the Shore. The twists and turns of this novel are so unexpected and so incredible that it’s almost impossible to pick what will happen next. At first, I fought against this, I was confused and let myself get stuck in my own head while reading, not allowing myself to be lost in the incredible story. But when I finally allowed the beautiful movement of the novel to wash over me and take me where it wanted I found myself enjoying it much more. I know that’s a peculiar way to describe reading a novel, but to me, reading Kafka on the Shore was like letting the current of the ocean pull you away.
Kafka on the Shore completely encapsulated my feelings of Japan. In the few times I’ve been, I’ve found Japan to be a magnificent country that has an innate sense of mystery. I always feel like there are so many things to be discovered, like there are secrets that run through the very core of the country. Murakami perfectly captured this feeling in Kafka on the Shore. The mystery of the novel, sometimes strange beyond comprehension, fit in with the mystic-cultural aspects of Japan which I find so fascinating.
In short, I loved this novel. It was so fantastically unique and unlike anything I read before. In fact, after finishing it I purchased another of Murakami’s novels, After Dark and absolutely can’t wait to get started and lose myself in his wonderful writing once more!
“Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That’s part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads – at least that’s where I imagine it – there’s a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in awhile, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you’ll live forever in your own private library.”