Japanese author Haruki Murakami is one of the most highly praised masters of his craft in contemporary history. Leaving readers all over the world confused but more so enthralled by his whimsy, mysterious novels and short stories, he’s a storyteller who never has to go too far when it comes to twisting his varying plots. For that matter, it’s really no wonder that his latest novel, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,” sold over a million print copies when released in his native Japan. It was also no surprise that bookstores had celebrations all over the US, the UK, and other countries within the mere hours prior to the release of its English language translation last summer. But did this novel- which follows a man in pursuit of rekindling his long lost childhood friends- leave as satisfying of an impression as many of Murakami’s novels before this one? Kelly Richards and Lauren Lola share their thoughts after reading it:
This was my first time reading Haruki Murakami and to be completely honest, I’m at a loss. There is a chance that “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” was not the best place to start but maybe reading Murakami always makes you feel this way. Enthralled, uncomfortable, and uncertain – of the plot, of the characters, and why you can’t put it down even though you want to.
“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” deals with some fairly triggering subject matter and at times the treatment seems overly romantic. While I understand the need to address such topics I believe their handling could have been more considerate of those who suffer similarly.
The writing moves between effortlessly beautiful and stunted and heavy but it’s hard to know if this is the fault of the writer or the translator. There are times where a single sentence will pull you out of the book as you question its inclusion not just in the paragraph but in the book itself.
Having read “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” I would not call myself a fan of Murakami nor would I feel inspired to read any further works by the author. While the book was interesting and unlike anything I have previously read I found it difficult to maintain enthusiasm for the plot or the characters.
When I read “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” a few weeks after it came out in English last summer, I managed to find it easy to settle into. Being a fan of Murakami’s work, I was familiar with his style and key elements from reading many of his books beforehand that continued on in this novel as well: the theme of solitude, a protagonist who enjoys to read, random or awkward sex, and mysterious or unexplainable events that go on that, even by the end of the book, you may or may not get an answer to.
Re-reading it recently, I was immediately reminded as to what first caught me off-guard about this novel; it’s kind of like a fairytale. Five friends- all of whom just so happen to have names that are of a different color- except one; Tsukuru, whose name means “to make things.” The meaning of his name plays a role in the long run, as well as the recurring joke from his childhood about him being “colorless” as he goes on a pilgrimage to make amends and seek answers with these individuals 16 years after being booted out of the group.
It was also while re-reading it where I remembered why this particular novel by Murakami is not exactly one of my favorites. For one thing, it’s much more melancholy than what is typical for his novels; not to say that most of his novels are fluffy and light-hearted (for those words are far from the truth in describing his work). It’s just that this one seemed much darker than usual- and unnecessarily at times too.
Another thing is the flashback to college when Tsukuru’s friend Haida tells him a mysterious story of his father from back when he was his age, only to follow up with a leave of absence from their university the following semester. In my eyes, that sub-plot didn’t really add much to the overall story.
On a five-star scale, I would have to give “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” three stars. It just doesn’t have the same substance and sparkle of something special that some of his previous novels have.