The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami — New Review

My first note for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is ‘Michael likes such weird things. Why is weird good?’. It’s a note that hints at a lot of my feelings towards the story as a whole. It’s not that I dislike weird, but I don’t think I find it as enchanting as other people do. Michael described the unpredictability of Murakami as being like a staircase that turns into a slide beneath your feet, and you just get swept away for the ride. That metaphor doesn’t quite work for me.

In the early pages of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, my problem was mainly that I didn’t trust Murakami. The story was unpredictable — and as such, I felt no certainty that it was ever going to be wrapped up in a satisfying bow. I expected it to be weird for the sake of being weird. That’s probably not quite fair, because Murakami does seem to be following some kind of logical pattern, it’s just that the pattern isn’t always (or ever) clear to me as a reader.

To tell you the truth, my sister says that this will be a longer story than it seemed at first.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami

For me, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was not as weird as Geek Love. The people seemed closer to being real — although, as soon as I said that, I thought of several examples of characters who didn’t. The world is also more ‘normal’, with weirdness happening only at the edges.

Like Island (also recommended by Michael), The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle did take me back to my days as an English literature student. There’s a decent essay to be written on the theme of pain and numbness, I’m sure.

I’m no closer to knowing whether I really enjoyed The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but I can say that it’s very different to anything else I’ve read.

Next, I’ll be reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette Ng — New Review, Bookclub Edition

I love going to bookclub. In fact, I spent most of my time over dinner at a wedding I recently attended talking about how great it is to participate in a group conversation about a book. How often do you get to talk to more than one person who has read the same book you have?!

Last time, we read The Anubis Gates. I wasn’t wild about it, though I also didn’t hate it. Someone else in the group described it as ‘relentless’ – which was the perfect word. For him, that was a good thing. For me, it was off-putting. What amazes me is that he could so perfectly sum up my feelings, while experiencing them totally differently!

I haven’t attended the meeting for Under the Pendulum Sun yet. Maybe when I have, someone else will have given me the perfect word with which to sum it up. Until then, I’ll have to do the best I can.

She stopped herself, rolled the unspoken words over her tongue like a boiled sweet and swallowed.

Under the Pendulum Sun, Jeannette Ng

Under the Pendulum Sun got off to a strong start. I liked Jeannette Ng’s insight into the way her characters built worlds as children and how, though they wanted them to be fantastic, different places, they were really just their familiar surroundings related in different ways. Unfortunately, I felt that the descriptions of them as children were the most personality Cathy and Laon ever had.

Outside of their relationship as siblings, and their academic wrestling with the juxtaposition of religion and fairyland, they just… didn’t really breathe. Cathy, in particular, felt as though she were swept along by the plot too much of the time rather than deliberately acting in interesting ways. Maybe all the religious references went over my head, but I didn’t particularly care whether changelings have souls or not. I mean, even in a fantasy world that strikes me as an unanswerable question.

My biggest struggle was in believing things that the characters told one another, or themselves. I didn’t see any reason to take certain ‘epiphanies’ at face value. When they turned out to be false epiphanies, I wasn’t particularly surprised or moved. If reading fantasy has taught me anything about fairyland, it’s that you should always question everything! Under the Pendulum Sun talked a lot about fairies and whether or not they tell the truth, and yet Cathy unquestionably accepts certain things because she feels as though they are true.

Despite such accounts, changelings never seemed quite real to me. But then, given how sheltered I had been, the French were never quite real.

Under the Pendulum Sun, Jeannette Ng

Under the Pendulum Sun suffered from only having one important relationship: between Laon and Cathy. For most of the book, they’re the only two human characters, and everyone else feels very like a plot device. The connection between the two of them is supposed to be very intense, even tortured, but it fell flat for me. And without that, there wasn’t enough reason to care about the mystery Jeannette Ng was trying to draw me into.

Next, I’ll be reading The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

Rating: 1 out of 5.