Tsukuru Tazaki is the story of a man trying to find out why, his close-knit high school circle of friends pushed him out of their group one day for noTsukuru Tazaki is the story of a man trying to find out why, his close-knit high school circle of friends pushed him out of their group one day for no apparent reason. For a novel with such a sad premise and with an opening line where the main character consumed by thoughts of death and dying, the book is, remarkably, one of the least depressing Haruki Murakami novels I have read. Although it starts off hinting at despair (colorless seems equated to lifeless or uninteresting), there are many more emotions and experiences covered by the book.
I probably would have like this more if it were the first Murakami novel I have ever read, however it is very similar to some of his previous work — particularly what is perhaps his best known novel: Norwegian Wood. I wasn't completely a fan of the latter for various reasons, there were parts of it I massively disliked, but while Tsukuru Tazaki didn't have any such parts for me, it also didn't have parts I found truly stellar. After a while, I guess one just gets Murakami'd out. Since I have compared it to NW, it should be obvious that this falls into one of two Murakami novel categories — the "normal, mundane, with just a touch of out-of-place oddness that makes you uncomfortable" category. As opposed to the "this is completely batshit what the hell is going on" category where Hard-Boiled Wonderland (my favourite) reigns supreme.
Tsukuru is, in many ways, a pilgrimage. It is a slow-paced journey that takes many decades, and I did feel that same slow pace when reading. As is his usual style, Murakami tells Tsukuru's many stories within a larger story, with the occasional other story being told while inside one of the other stories. That probably sounds confusing, but only if you've never read a Murakami novel — which are very rarely linear. While I enjoyed all of the bits being told via flashbacks from varying time frames, Murakami's main romantic plots are usually just this side of ridiculous. Using it as a plot device in this instance felt very forced, and I couldn't find the character's main love interest realistic (or likeable) at all. The revelation of the truth behind his friend's actions were also so illogical, it bordered on ridiculous. The entire conflict was so forced and unnatural. I could understand the initial reason for it, but why it had to go on so long was nonsensical.
What was realistic is Tsukuru's inner struggle. Dealing with the past where his best friends friends inexplicably shunned him, and all the changes he went through in reaction to that shunning and his subsequent struggle — the Tsukuru that emerged from all that felt very real. Despite the title referring to him as a colorless person, he had a distinct personality and at times was very sympathetic. Oddly, I found him more sympathetic than many of Murakami's first-person narrators, and this is a story written in the third. I truly felt sorry for him at times, as all the descriptions of his pain and loneliness were done well.
Overall, I think it's a good book, but easily overshadowed by some of his other work because of its simplicity. At the same time, it is that simplicity that makes it stand out from other Murakami novels. While there are still elements of magical realism or inexplicable weirdness, they are not so pronounced. As with a lot of Murakami novels, the story also seemed to end just when the actual tale worth telling was about to start. This book is almost all back story and character development, with what should be plot in other novels left as hints. It ends quietly, just as it had begun, but with an altogether different mood. It's a flawed book, and some parts were a bit slow, but I enjoyed it and found it quite relatable in the end....more
Baudolino once again shows Eco’s amazing ability to turn what may be a boring pseudo-historical narrative into something hilarious, occasionally cheekBaudolino once again shows Eco’s amazing ability to turn what may be a boring pseudo-historical narrative into something hilarious, occasionally cheeky, and always insightful.
If Baudolino is to be believed, he was single-handedly responsible for the canonization of Charlemagne, was responsible for the propagation of the myth of Prester John, and indirectly fueled Frederick’s ill-fated Third Crusade. The story that Umberto Eco created fits so perfectly behind history as we know it that it’s sometimes easy to forget that Baudolino himself is entirely fictional.
Baudolino, as a character, is also one of the most interesting ever written. He is fundamentally good-hearted and peaceful, yet he is such an accomplished liar that whole countries believe him, and people, without realizing it, bend over backwards to explain away reality to fit with his lies. His down-to-earth nature, quick intelligence and humor make him simply loveable, however, and it’s hard not to sympathize with him, even when his mistakes bring earth-shattering consequences.
Also, the first paragraph of the first chapter made me laugh out loud. In fact, the first chapter left me in fits. It’s the most awesome first chapter ever....more
Roberto della Griva abandons his sinking ship only to wash up aboard the mysteriously abandoned Dutch ship, Daphne. Within sight is the island of theRoberto della Griva abandons his sinking ship only to wash up aboard the mysteriously abandoned Dutch ship, Daphne. Within sight is the island of the day before, and if he could only swim, he could reach it, and change the direction of his fate.
Island of the Day Before has a deceptively simple premise, but goes way beyond it. There are actually a LOT of things going on in this book. The book not only chronicles Roberto’s days on board the Daphne, but also most of his life: from his first battle to his first love. It also takes us through early expeditions in the search for the prime meridian, and the competition among nations, explorers and scholars to discover or create the best, most accurate method of determining longitude.
At first glance, Island looks like a tough, slow read. And it is. Despite this, I enjoyed the book. The elaborately poetic prose suited it, and I can see how the translator thought it necessary. Island is a highly descriptive book, and there lies its beauty. Once I got used to the language, I began to appreciate its sense of humor. It’s actually pretty funny sometimes. Roberto is such a strange creature full of contradictions: an educated nobleman with the instincts of a peasant, and somewhat of a philosopher but for the lack of common sense -- then again, he is a nobleman.
It’s also interesting to see the world from the eyes of a 15th century man. The things we take for granted or as a given were rare and mysterious and impossible to understand back then. It might seem funny how they knew so little about the world — scientifically — but it’s also fascinating to see Roberto and his friends reason out the concept of time, multiple worlds, and God. Some of their ideas are patently ridiculous to us, but to them it was brilliant.
The writing is perfectly Eco: it’s in no hurry to get anywhere, and some sentences go on forever, but the prose is finely constructed. The book is full of quotable things, my copy is so dog-eared. And the ending, while it left me hanging, suited it well. Anything else would have been anticlimatic.
Over-all, it’s quite good though - as I said - it’s a bit of a slow read....more
I always find it interesting to read young adult/children's books written by non-American authors. They tend to touch in a more direct manner certainI always find it interesting to read young adult/children's books written by non-American authors. They tend to touch in a more direct manner certain topics and events American authors always try to step around or sugarcoat. That's usually the best thing about Cornelia Funke's books.
I didn't enjoy Inkspell as much as her other works, however. I'm not sure if it's because of the writing/translation, which felt a little cold and slow. The action scenes were even strangely boring and not very action-filled. I also found myself unsympathetic with Meggie and Farid. I still like Mo (he was my favorite in Inkheart) and I like Dustfinger better here because he's more fleshed out and less weasel-y than in the first book. Resa is a great character as well. It's just too bad that the book is mostly from Meggie and Farid's POV when I don't particularly like them much. The jumpy nature of the narrative (head-hopping) also made it hard to become immersed in it.
This second installation in the Gentlemen Bastards series is good enough to keep me reading and wanting the next. It's just as witty as the first, andThis second installation in the Gentlemen Bastards series is good enough to keep me reading and wanting the next. It's just as witty as the first, and there were several laugh-out-loud moments for me. The banter between Locke and Jean remains as fun as ever.
However, it's a bit slower-paced than Lies of Locke Lamora, and while a bit heavier on angst, it also felt strangely less dark. Although perhaps the latter can be attributed to the fact that the Verrari are not as cut-throat as the Cammori and their criminal world (and the city at large) makes a grander show at being "civilized". I also far preferred the way the atmosphere had been set in the first novel than in this, but I understand that perhaps Scott Lynch spent more effort trying to make the nautical parts of the book feel authentic than in describing the rest.
Speaking of which, the whole time they were learning about the sea (if this were a film, it would be the perfect place for a training montage), was somewhat boring to me. It took me a long time to get past that part, even during the re-read. The scenes involving ships and pirates were action-packed and interesting, which made up for the slow middle. However, I wasn't too pleased with the way the romance aspect had been written, as it felt to me that Jean was teetering on the edge of being out of character at times. I can only hope love doesn't make Locke as ridiculous soppy and sentimental should he be around Sabetha in the future.
I loved the new characters and would really like it if, someday, Locke can once again meet Requin and Selendri, just as I hope he runs into the Salvaras another time. The way everything fell into place in the end was great and while not as inspired as the heists in the first book, the one here was still quite brilliant -- and surprisingly hilarious....more
Maybe I'm just getting tired of Haruki Murakami, but Kafka on the Shore took me a long time to finish because I couldn't quite enjoy it.
The prose is aMaybe I'm just getting tired of Haruki Murakami, but Kafka on the Shore took me a long time to finish because I couldn't quite enjoy it.
The prose is as beautiful as Murakami's prose tends to be, but there's something about the story and the main character (Kafka Tamura) that I simply didn't like. The supporting characters were great. I loved old and "I'm kind of stupid" Nakata, Hoshino, and Oshima (although there was this weird point when Oshima went up against a pair of feminist activists and he was just really ANNOYING). The weird business with Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders I can get over because -- well -- they're not the strangest things to show up in a Murakami novel. But Kafka just annoyed me.
Also, after having read so many Murakami novels, I'm starting to see that the author's weakness is that his voice is too strong for him to actually write in the voice of his character. Kafka doesn't sound 15. Kafka sounds like a lot of other Murakami protagonists. Murakami protagonists are all so self-absorbed.
That said, I really do think the prose is pretty (if a bit slow and boring). My copy has so many Post-it flags on it for all the quotable things it has. But it's not my favorite Murakami novel -- quite the opposite, in fact. I was completely unable to connect with the main character and I found him irritating, which usually ruins books for me (see Bartimaeus Trilogy, Lioness Quartet).
ETA: The occasional jumps to second person were incredibly obnoxious. They were so jarring. And much of the book was gratuitously weird, wordy, and borderline trashy....more
One of the most depressing things I have ever read. The ending was kind of hopeful, with the way it was left hanging, but still pretty depressing. TheOne of the most depressing things I have ever read. The ending was kind of hopeful, with the way it was left hanging, but still pretty depressing. The main character was incredibly disconnected with the world for most of the book, I felt awful. The book was well written and interesting, but I really don't think I'll read it again....more