Book Review – South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami

*Contains no spoilers

This is a slim book. In little more than 200 pages you are able to sink into a well-rounded and thoroughly immersive story. In the hands of a less-skilled writer, this would be impossible.

For Murakami though, 200 pages is more than enough to captivate and absorb. Big in scope, the story weaves through the life of Hajime, from being a young teenager to being a successful middle-class man, owner of several high-end bars in Tokyo. Hajime recalls with relish, (and we relive) his obsessive romantic fantasies. I will leave it there in terms of the plot to avoid any spoilers.

The characters are well-formed things, deeply compelling and instantly likeable- as all of Murakami’s characters tend to be. This book is much like its physical setting, a smoky, lounge-bar affair, full of lustful and romantic desire and haunting memories. If you have ever experienced unrequited love or lustful longing then you will love this book. It’s a way to know intimately about the luscious erotic longing of one man, who is a stand-in for every man or woman you have ever met. It’s exquisite literary fiction sure, with smatterings of soft porn here and there. 5/5 stars.

9 thoughts on “Book Review – South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami

  1. You know I don’t think I’ve read this. I pegged it as a short story collection- which I tend not to go for. I thought I’d read everything he’s written but obviously not!!

    1. It’s one you will love. Also I think give the ‘Men without Women’short story collection of his a go, I think it would surprise you. His stories seem to have a lot more meatiness and substance to them even though they are short, they are therefore better than most other short stories I think 🙂

      1. On the list! Looking through his books I just found two more I haven’t read — apparently out of print in English: wind and pinball. They are combined in a digital version. So more good news

      2. I have seen these ones in English printed but in Tokyo in a book shop – they were an old version of it though and printed together. I have just got An Elephant Vanishes, I hope it’s good. I got through only half of Killing Commendatore and had to stop it really started to drag after that.

      3. I remember the elephant one…quite good I think. So you didn’t like Killing Commendatore? It wasn’t his best. There was enough to keep me reading though the end was unnecessarily batty. Did you try 19Q4? That’s up there with his best.

      4. That’s good you managed to get to the end of Killing Commendatore, I just couldn’t. So the end was a bit batty? what happened in the end LOL…you saved me some hours here of reading it hehehe I actually bought 19Q4 at a second hand book shop, I was thinking it would be long and a bit slow like Commendatore, but you are saying it’s one of his best…tell me more!! but please don’t give away too much though, have you reviewed it on your website?

      5. Oh the end of Killing Commendatore…the artist had to go on a wild goose case through a parallel universe to rescue the girl…but she was hiding in the closest at that white-haired guy the whole time. All a bit pointless… Anyway I did enjoy the story in the end (especially the art/music aspects) as I nearly always do with murakami. 19Q4 is definitely worth reading. Not as good as bird/and kafka perhaps but the characters have more colour than in Killing Commendatore and the plot more interest

      6. Thank you so much!!! You saved me a lot of wasted time with Killing Commendatore, and I am now going to start on the big behemoth of 19Q4 with more confidence hehe. I think I have OD’ed on Murakami lately, perhaps I need to have a break hehe

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