Book Review (#17): Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore 3

First of all, today is the start of the month of Ramadan, so I’d like to congratulate all my Muslim followers, if there are any, for its arrival. Ramadan kareem, ladies and gentlemen, and I hope you get a marvelous spiritual experience this month.

Okay, this review is SO long overdue. It has been, what, a week since I’ve put this book aside? Probably. But I really am still having a tremendous amount of trouble deciding how I feel about it. Therefore, let’s get started and try to put this puzzle together, alright?

Let’s start out with a little bit of laying out the premise. The story is set in Japan; it is told from several points of view, but most importantly, that of a fifteen-year old run away kid called Kafka and an old man called Nakata. It has the classic basis for a self-discovery story, for both the young teenager and the older man –the cathartic journey, the helpful strangers, the emotional discoveries, the questioning of purpose… Really, it’s all there. But did I feel it or grasp it? No. And honestly, I’ll blame myself for this; I just didn’t understand the book. It didn’t suit my taste, and there were a lot of things going on that I just couldn’t get myself involved. And even though I’m closer in age and mindset to Kafka, I was a lot more concerned about Nakata and enjoyed his side of the story a lot more.


I wanna talk about the language. Oh. My. God. The language! I couldn’t believe the story was translated; the language seemed to be so authentic and effortless. I mean, even though I didn’t get the story as a whole, I loved almost every sentence. Every profound scene was so brilliantly written and things were stated out so elegantly. And there’s this certain feel that just envelopes you as your read, and every time you pick up the book, you get that very same feeling, no matter what is going on in the story. The thing is, I’m not entirely sure I can explain what this feeling is. I mean, even though I was, for most of the story, unable to understand what was going on, I could always SEE the places and FEEL the objects and HEAR the music, even if I haven’t heard the pieces mentioned before. So everything is so sensory, and that’s what mostly attracted me. I also heard that it translates really well into Arabic as well, so I’m betting the secret is in Marukami’s writing itself.


Then, I want to talk about the side characters, or as I referred to them previously, the helpful strangers. They made the story a lot more vivid and a lot more lovable; they’re the reason the main characters were able to do what they’ve set out to do, and they’re the ones I fell in love with. I’m sure they were meant to hold some sort of significance, which I was unable to uncover, but I did admire them for their personalities. There was Oshima who looks like a guy and Kafka refers to as a guy throughout the story. Oshima is so profound and literate and understanding. I mean, Oshima is supposed to be SO messed up, yet he is SO at peace with himself, and he always has something to say, he always has a theory. And there was Hoshino, who is the only reason Nakata was able to fulfill his purpose in life. I think he was the one I sympathised with and understood the most.


So here’s the thing. I loved this book. I loved it and enjoyed it and loved its characters. I loved the way it was written and I tagged so many sentences I’ll forever reference. But I just didn’t understand the book; I felt as though I’m just missing something massive. One thing that I believe is the key problem is the fact that this book was a bit too mature for me. And that’s the reason I gave it three stars. I don’t know if I’ll read any other Marukami book, but I don’t think that’ll be happening any time soon.

Also, look! I moved out and I have natural light streaming into my house and a balcony in which I can take pretty pictures of my books.



3 thoughts on “Book Review (#17): Kafka on the Shore

  1. This is kind of how I feel about Murakami, too. The writing is great, and I love his characters, but I don’t know if I really ‘get’ it. This is actually one of the more accessible one’s I’ve read; The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is even more confusing and convoluted. I don’t know if you’ve read Norwegian Wood, but it’s much more straight forward and doesn’t have all of the surrealism.

    • Oh thank God, I’m not the only person. I just sat there feeling stupid MOST of the time. And every time someone asked me how it’s going, I’d say that I was at that point where I’m not entirely sure what’s going on. Turned out the whole book was full of points I don’t quite get. But this was my first Marukami. Maybe if I decide to give him another shot, I’d go for Norwegian Wood. So thanks for the suggestion and for coming by. 😀

  2. Oh I don’t think one is meant to ‘get’ Murakami. That’s the beauty of it, that strange sensation it leaves you with – happy, sad, unsure. Norwegian Wood was my first Murakami, and yes, it is straight-forward, which is probably why I kept reading him. Another one of those is After Dark. My favourite, though, is Sputnik Sweetheart. But I like it because it left me feeling things that I have no way to describe!

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