As I was contemplating what to say about this book, Julie’s blog entry about it somehow showed up in my rss-feed (even though it’s published in October). She says pretty much exactly what I thought, and it also echoes the opinion of most of the members of the reading circle I discussed it with: I like it, but I have no idea why.
Pros: A main character who loves books. A few other severely attractive characters.
Cons: Mystical happenings, souls (or something) living their own lives outside the body, dreams being «real» and so on.
Normally those cons would put me off completely. And to some extent, they do. That part of the story didn’t appeal to me at all, and only worked insofar as it was neccessary to drive the plot. What did work for me was the wealth of appealing characters and the flashes of pure brilliance in the way they are described.
Her long hair is loosely tied back, her face very refined and intelligent-looking, with beautiful eyes and a shadowy smile playing over her lips, a smile whose sense of completeness is indescribable. It reminds me of a small, sunny spot, the special patch of sunlight you find only in some remote, secluded place. My house in Tokyo has one just like it in the garden, and ever since I was very young I loved that bright little place. (p. 49)
Though that is a description of Miss Saeki, one of the few characters I never really warmed to. Perhaps because so much of her wasn’t there.
On the other hand, I liked Kafka, whose buildungsroman this is. I liked Nakata, I liked Oshima and I really, really liked Hoshino. I find him fascinating, the way he is so down to earth but at the same time takes all Nakatas rather wild statements at face value.
On the whole, I found Kafka on the Shore very hard to put down once I started, and I am not at all sorry to have several more Murakamis in my to-be-read pile.