Review: Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami

murakami coverI think it’s fair to say this book wasn’t what I was expecting; but then, what really is expected when Murakami is at the helm? I haven’t had much prior experience with Murakami, I didn’t much enjoy Norwegian Wood when I’ve tried to read it but I absolutely loved 1Q84 – which is apparently a very different opinion to the masses! There was a question on Goodreads asking if disappointment in 1Q84 affected decisions as to whether or not to read this book – my answer to that is I loved 1Q84 so it absolutely affected my decision, in a positive way. I cannot remember the last time I bought a book (even an eBook) on release day. It was probably Harry Potter.

Back to this book, it’s about a man named Tsukuru Tazaki.  At the age of 20, Tsukuru Tazaki is kicked out of his group of five friends, three boys and two girls. Each of them has a colourful name: Red, Blue, White and Black, except for Tsukuru. It’s representative for the way he thinks about himself: colourless, with nothing valuable to offer the rest of the group – or even the world. This book follows him – in a series of present day tellings and flashbacks that cover the course of the 16 years since that day.

It has to be said, this book doesn’t really amount to much. It’s a very simple book, especially when compared to 1Q84! It doesn’t stretch the brain too much, it’s a very comfortable book but in some ways, it felt quite flimsy. The plot in the main was good, but the ending was abrupt – to me initially it felt unfinished. In retrospect, I think the ending fitted  with the book, the openness of it worked and, I feel that in adding the final chapter that I craved for the book would have had to have had another 100 pages to tie up even more ends. Wherever it finished, it was going to be open ended.

I really identified with Tsukuru in the first few chapters; I’ve had friends that have just cut me off without as much as a goodbye. I really felt this man. The premise of this book is the quest to find out why he was so harshly removed from his circle of friends. Honestly, the real reasoning came as quite a surprise to me! I loved the pilgrimage he experienced when Sara found his friends; following that, finding out the reasoning behind this outcasting, it was a very interesting walk through a friendship.

The novel really isn’t colourless. It is so vibrant. Murakami’s way of writing; conveying feelings, emotions, it’s beautiful. He’s not one of these authors who spends a lot of time describing physical things, he doesn’t illustrate scenes or worry about ‘cinematography’. He is just wonderful at rounding characters with exact feelings. While the actual story is a little nondescript, you have no choice but to feel Tusukuru – he’s just so tangible, even though he’s a little whiny and melancholy you just connect with him. Murakami can write the human soul, I think that’s the simplest way of expressing it. It’s as if he can just reach in and take the essence of all that’s human and just write it.

Colourless Tsukuru was a comfortable book. It was an easy read with beautiful atmospherics and character building. It was good – it wasn’t extraordinary, it’s not the best book I’ve read this year but it had something that was just wonderful. I can’t hate this, however much I feel it was flawed in places. 

Ultimately, it’s a 4/5 for me.

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