Book reviews


I’ve been looking forward to reading Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Marakami all year. I wasn’t disappointed when I actually got to it.

The main character, Tsukuru Tazaki is a 36 year old man living in Tokyo, whose passion is building railway stations. He is a loner, having been terribly hurt as a young man when his four friends, for reasons which he never understood, kicked him out of their group.

The group of friends had met as idealistic teenagers, three boys and two girls, who got to know each other while performing community service. Tsukuri’s description of their friendship is that they were a five sided shape, an equilateral pentagon, each with a contribution to make to the whole.

Tsukuru’s friend’s names all contained colours; red, blue, white and black. Tsukuri felt different from his friends because his name did not contain a colour, which he believed also expressed that his personality was also colourless. As a reader, I did not believe this to be the case at all. Tsukuru’s name has associations with building, and that was the career path he eventually followed.

At first the mystery of the book is why this happened to Tsukuri. The reader gets to know Tsukuri and he is a good person. He was so hurt and bewildered by his friend’s dropping him that he contemplated suicide. At the age of 36, he recognised that he had never formed a really close relationship with anyone since, in an attempt to protect himself from being hurt again. However, Tsukuri meets and becomes close to Sara, who pushes him to get in contact again with his old friends, for closure, so that he can move forward.

The issues are eventually resolved, at least enough so that Tsukuri and the reader feel that they have closure. There are still mysteries and relationships left up in the air, but nothing that annoyed me. This book also reminds readers that there are as many viewpoints as there are people.

The book has been translated into English from Japanese. The words are very precise, in the way translations are and there is a lot of prose about grabbing drinks of orange juice and other trivial events mixed in with the story. The words and images are beautiful and the lessons are gentle. I would love to know if anyone has read this book in Japanese as well as in English and if the story changed at all because of differences in the languages. I have to admit, I was slightly afraid that this book would be a difficult read, but it wasn’t at all.

There is also music running through the book, which prompted me to Google some of the pieces used to tell the story. I wasn’t the only one either, Liszt’s Le Mal du Pays had a great many comments in English, saying that the listener had come to the piece because of the book. I imagine quite a few of the Japanese comments also say that Murakami sent them too.

This is a lovely book, quite different to my usual reading, but very satisfying. I will not be afraid to read another book by Haruki Murakami.

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