Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami

August 27, 2009 § 19 Comments

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Why do people have to be this lonely?

The book is about the relationship between three people: Sumire – a 22-year old girl who doesn’t want to do anything but write novels for a living, the person she falls in love with, Miu – a married woman who experienced something when she was younger that changed her entire life, and the first person protagonist – only referred to once as K, a 24-year old teacher who loves Sumire, but can’t have her.

The plot of the story is an intriguing one. Sumire finds herself caught in a tornado when she meets Miu for the first time and falls head-over-heels in love. She tells this to K, who happens to be the one and only friend she has. Then suddenly, Sumire disappears.

The story is told from K’s perspective, and so it is only understandable that there are parts of the story that seem disjointed. K’s main concern is what happened to Sumire, but because he doesn’t know, the reader doesn’t either. What we do get, is a glimpse of what K thinks, what he imagines, and what he feels and experiences during his time spent with Sumire, while looking for Sumire, and after he has given up looking for her.

For me, a sense of overwhelming loneliness was found throughout the book. It was like the characters had this special bond to each other, and yet they were alone in this world. Sumire had only K for a friend, and yet she had her own life to live, her own world to disappear into.

Being alone is like the feeling you get when you stand at the mouth of a large river on a rainy evening and watch the water flow into the sea.

It’s a quiet feeling, but one that takes over your entire mind and body, one so strong that all you can do when the feeling comes is let it sweep you off your feet, let it take control of you, and flow with it.

Compared with Dance Dance Dance, this book is more fast-paced, more gripping. It explored, I think, a wider range of feelings, and dived deeper into the realm of emotions. It can be quite easy to feel vulnerable, even though Murakami isn’t writing about you, you almost feel like it’s you who has had your feelings revealed.

This book is another easy favourite. It’s the kind where you start reading, and never feel like putting down. Time doesn’t even seem to go by while reading it, and yet when you suddenly look up, hours have passed you by and dawn is nearing.

Conclusion: 5/5, definitely. I now can’t wait to start on After Dark. I read a review somewhere, saying that the best time to read After Dark is when it really is after dark. I’ll be keeping one of my weekend nights free for this.

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§ 19 Responses to Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami

  • Tony says:

    However, as I remarked in my blog post, I feel that it doesn’t quite get where it’s going. For me, it’s one of those almost-not-quite perfect books (if that makes sense!). I still think ‘Norwegian Wood’ is better despite (because of?) its simpler and less fantastical style. But then, that’s just relatively speaking; in reality, they’re all brilliant 😉

  • Mel U says:

    Thanks for this very interesting review. Maybe the best way to read “After Dark” would be by yourself in a booth in an American Style Chain Restaurant in huge Asian Megacity, preferably after midnight. I have “Dance Dance Dance”-got it in a book swap-I will read it soon, I think.

  • Carl V. says:

    Wonderful review. I so want to read this book! I had just responded on my site to your comment on The Alchemy of Stone regarding book titles which really applies here as well because Sputnik Sweetheart is one of those titles that just grabs hold of me and makes me want to read it.

    I love the cover of this version of the book.

  • su says:

    @ Tony: I think I know what you mean when you say that it didn’t quite get where it was going. I had that sort of feeling where I wanted to say to the book (don’t know how much good that would do though..), just one more step, just a little bit more.

    But I’ve yet to read Norwegian Wood, it has proved impossible to find in the local libraries.

    @ Mel: Sounds like a plan to me! And after midnight is the perfect time as well, that’s when I normally read.

    @ Carl: Yup. Sputnik Sweetheart does have a little something that attracts and draws your attention, doesn’t it? It’s just fabulous when both the cover art and the title of the book grabs you, isn’t it? For those very same reasons, and also because of your great review, I’m wanting to read The Alchemy of Stone now.

  • Bellezza says:

    The concept of loneliness, which you launch us into with your very first line, is a fascinating one to me. I can’t wait to see what Murakami does with it. (Trust Carl to notice the cover! He’s so great with illustrations and space. Stuff that totally passes me by all too often. 😉

  • Bellezza says:

    The concept of loneliness, which you launch us into with your very first line, is a fascinating one to me. I can’t wait to see what Murakami does with it.

  • su says:

    @ Bellezza: Loneliness definitely makes for a very good theme, in my opinion. And especially with Murakami, you’re almost promised something good. (I agree with you about Carl. His site is full of beautiful illustrations of books and things like that.)

  • Tony says:

    I think it’s time you bit the bullet and bought ‘Norwegian Wood’!!!

  • su says:

    @ Tony: I needed that kick, didn’t I? 🙂

  • Nadia says:

    Great review! I love Murakami so I was excited to read your review of this book because I have not read it yet. Its on my TBR list of Murakami books. I have read After Dark and I’m looking forward to reading what you thought of it. It is definitely a great book and it haunted me for days after I read it – what I mean is that after I read it I initially did not enjoy it, but for days after all I could do was think about it and whenever I discussed it with someone I found myself liking the book more and more and realized what a great book it really was. Definitely a must read for any Murakami fan!

  • su says:

    @ Nadia: Good to know that you enjoyed After Dark. I’m definitely going to try and make some time this weekend to read it.

  • Harry Markov says:

    Okay, now I knwo for certain that I have to read everything from Murakami. It feels like the kind of novel for me. I love the theme of loneliness as it is a emotion I have come to be reunited again and again over the time. Lovely review.

    • su says:

      @ Harry: I think books with loneliness as its theme are typically written very beautifully, but only if the author can pull it off. Murakami is definitely in his zone with this one. Thanks for coming by. 🙂

  • mee says:

    I read Sputnik Sweetheart soon after Norwegian Wood. I believe if you like this you would definitely like Norwegian Wood (which is one of my favorite books ever).

  • ds says:

    Hi! I just read Sputnik Sweeheart for Bellezza’s challenge also,so I was curious to find another opinion.I like your focus on the characters’ loneliness (but I swear, in the edition I read, the narrator was not once referred to as K!). Were you satisfied with the ending of this book? I wanted to know–really know–what happened to Sumire. I guess I had fallen under her spell, too.
    I’m glad you are doing Carl’s challenge. I will be looking for your reviews…

  • su says:

    @ ds: I felt almost the same way as you did about Sumire. When I finished that last sentence in the book, my first reaction was, But what about Sumire? What happened to her?

    But I kind of like that the ending wasn’t really an ending. In a way, it leaves so much room for us to explore in our own little worlds, but yet draws us back into the story consistently. I think that’s what makes Murakami’s work so beautiful.

  • Nishita says:

    When I read this book, I got the feeling that it was all about the loneliness and the alienation that a lot of young Japanese people may be feeling.

    It was almost like these characters were representing youth in Japan today. I don’t know whether I got that impression because this was the first book that I read from a Japanese author; or whether that was the author’s intention

    • Michelle says:

      It could be a general representation of Japanese youth I think, but I’m not sure either. This is definitely one book I will want to rediscover some time.

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