Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
rating: 4 out of 5
Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite authors. I read my first novel by him four or five years ago and it was pretty much love at first sight. Since then I’ve read 6 or so more of his books and enjoyed each of them. Murakami’s writing ropes me in from pretty much the first page. I always get completely lost in the story, which is always unique and dreamlike.
The hero of the novel is Kafka Tamura, a 15 year old runaway from Tokoyo. Kafka is a loner who has a deeper relationship with books than he does with other people (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Kafka’s father, a famous sculptor, makes an Oedipal prophecy about his son: Kafka will kill his father and sleep with his mother. Kafka’s mother abandoned him when he was only 4 years old and took his older sister with her. Kafka hasn’t seen his mother or sister since. The book starts as Kafka flees his home and makes his way to the island of Shikoku where he creates a new routine of spending his days reading in a private library.
The chapters of the book alternate between 1st person accounts told from Kafka’s point of view and 3rd person accounts about Nakata, an old man who can talk with cats. As a boy, during World War II, Nakata collapsed while on a school outing and lost much of his mental capacity. Now, as an elderly man, Nakata lives on subsidies from the government and makes some extra cash by using his cat-talking skills to work as a for-hire cat finder.
The pages of Kafka on the Shore are filled with strange events and encounters. The stories of Kafka, Nakata, and the other characters meld together more and more as the story continues. I how effortlessly Murakami weaves cultural references into his books. Other authors who try this often end up sounding forced or cheesy. Murakami can drop in music, food, or movie references in a way that seems to be part of the story versus the author trying to sound hip & modern.
I highly recommend this book! (and all other Murakami ones as well) Kafka on the Shore may not be my favorite Murakami book but it was still a great read.