South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haurki Marakami

 

This was my first experience reading Haruki Murakami.  I know that he is a well known and highly regarded author.  This book is written in the first person with the narrator, Hajime being a Japanese man born in the early 1950s.  The book is the story of his life or rather a life not lived.  The books main themes are memory and reminiscences.  Hajime is borderline obsessed with a mysterious woman from his childhood.  Even as he meets and marries, his thoughts are not far from this woman, Shimamoto.  Hajime experiences relative success in life, but he doesn’t really seem to take pleasure from it.  He is married and says that he loves his wife, but doesn’t really seem to have a connection to her.  That he reserves for Shimamoto, who drifts in and out of life intermittently.

He doesn’t even seem to take pleasure in his children.  Which is surprising because he discussed in depth his own childhood, as an only child and his experiences.  It’s as though, his own children are just something that happened to him.  Interwoven in this story, very appropriately given the flow of the plot is Jazz music.  It doesn’t seem that Hajime takes charge of his life, rather he is just being carried in the flow.  Likewise he doesn’t seem to take real responsibility for his own actions.  He expresses the idea that he hurt Izumi at one point, but  it doesn’t really seem to impact him.

This was an interesting read, certainly kept my attention. The author excelled at expressing mood through subtle details.  His prose was delightful to read, even though I didn’t particularly like the main character.  Hajime was very self-absorbed, only concerned with what was happening to him.   I read this as part of my One Drink Minimum Book Club and I’m glad that I was introduced to this author.  I will probably pick up another one of his books.

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