Book Review: A Wild Sheep Chase

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Title/Author: A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

Genre: Adult Fiction, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism

Published: 1982 in Japan

Hardcover, 299 pages

How I Got This Book: Checked it out from the library

Why I Picked It Up?: Many of my co-workers love Murakami. Last year, I read his most recent (and longest) work, 1Q84 (my review here). I really enjoyed his writing style, so I decided to go back to the beginning and work my way through his novels.

Book Jacket Blurb:  “With the publication of A Wild Sheep Chase, readers in the West will be introduced to the prodigious talents of Haruki Murakami, the leading novelist of modern Japan…

The Time is now. The setting is Japan–minus the kimono and the impenetrable mystique of an exotic, distant culture. The narrator, identified only by a pronoun, is on principle an ordinary fellow. Thirty years old, he has more intelligence than an overachieving businessman, but no ambition and little purpose. Enter into his lackluster life a young woman, apparently ordinary as well but with ears so gorgeous that all conversation stops in the presence of their unveiling; a right-wing boss with a golfball-sized blood cyst in his brain who’s unaccountably been spared standing trial as a Class A war criminal; a sinister, all-efficient lieutenant with beautiful hands and a degree from Stanford; and a brilliant professor permanently sidetracked by an animal experience that in forty-two years has not dimmed in significance.

Inexorably, all are impelled into the bizarre pursuit of a dream-induced sheep. But this is no ordinary sheep. With a star on its back, eyes as clear as spring water, and a near-irresistible spiritual allure, the sheep embodies a perverse Nietzschean will to absolute power. The pursuit of this fantastic supersheep beings in the urban haunts of Tokyo, continues at a garish suburban estate, and culminates in the lonely mountainous snow country of Hokkaido.

Here, in Haruki Murakami’s dazzling debut in the West, is a feat of the imagination, a tale–not easily forgotten–of enchantment, suspense, and human mystery.”

My Review of this Work:

I know what you are thinking: “Hmmm, that title is really interesting. I wonder what metaphorical symbolism the wild sheep chase is?

But no, no. This book is literally about chasing a wild sheep. A special kind of sheep. A magical sheep.

Sound bizarre yet? Good. That’s the way Murakami likes it.

I know what else you are thinking: “I just read that blurb. What?”

Here’s the deal with Haruki Murakami: you read his books because he wrote them, not necessarily because the blurb sounds fantastic! For example, this past week Murakami’s newest book hit the stores in Japan. The catch? No information was even released about this book! Only the title and when it was being released! And yet, hundreds of people lined up to buy this mysterious book at midnight. There is such a respect for his level of writing that many citizens of Japan have Murakami on their “Autobuy” lists!

From the blurb, we get a lot of details about….some story. the blurb is quite verbose and a little overwhelming and not very informative of the overall story arc. So I will give you the skinny: The story itself is not anything wow-worthy. In fact, it is rather ordinary and mundane.

But remember what I told you: Murakami is a great writer and story-teller. He can take a rather mundane-sounding story and transform it into something you don’t want to stop reading! Simply through his style of writing! This is truly a bizarre story. And yet, there is something so innately intriguing to this story that you just can’t help but keep reading.

Even though he is quite advanced with his style of writing, I find myself giggling out loud while I am reading this novel. I find that Murakami has a quirky sense of humor that he infuses his story with, and I really appreciate it. It makes such a strange read more enjoyable when you can see the author’s sense of humor shine through his writing.

None of the characters have real names. They are either referred to as pronouns, job titles (Chauffeur, partner) or by animalistic nick-names (The Rat, The Sheep professor). So actually, when the chauffeur names the cat Kipper, that is quite a significant moment because the cat is the only character that Murakami allows to be named. I think that the unnamed theme lends itself further to the complete ordinariness of this story. These characters could be anyone. He could be you. She could be someone you know. The anonymity of this story creates part of the intrigue that keeps you reading more.

While I loved loved the development of this story and the attention to detail, when it got to the pennicle moment of this novel, things fell flat with me. I feel like he rushed through the end of this literary journey so much that the end of this novel simply lost the impact that it could have potentially had with me. But I found myself at a loss for exactly what was going on, exactly how he knew things, and then it was over. The end. I just feel like, for all of the grand efforts Murakami takes with the entire progression of this bizarre little story, the ending felt like a rush to come in under 300 pages. This did not necessarily take away from my whole reading experience, but it definitely impacted my overall liking of this novel.

After reading his most recent work, going back and reading one of his earlier works proves to me one thing–Murakami is an extremely talented writer and deserves all of the praise that he gets. He has a way with language that is unmatched by many; he intrigues his readers from start to finish. I will be reading more Murakami novels in the future, so be on the lookout. I feel like I will find one I am 100% in love with to share with you soon.  In the mean time, if nothing else, keep this man on your reading radar.

My Bookshelf Rating:

3shelf3A Middle Shelf Book.

Such a bizarre story, and yet I couldn’t stop reading it. That is how great a writer Haruki Murakami is–he can make even the most mundane story invigorating. In a world full of magical realism and sheep, one simply gets lost in this mundane and anonymous story. Murakami is a fantastic story-teller, there is no doubt about that. And this story was actually quite intriguing until the last 50 pages, where the story got strange and trippy and kind of rushed. With all the build up, the end was kind of a let down, which is why this book only ended up with 3 stars. The ending is definitely not the most important part of the story, so it is still enjoyable. I just don’t really understand what happened, that’s all. But then again, that’s kind of how I felt with 1Q84 as well.

Love and Elementary,
Jennifer

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