Tag Archives: Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart – Sweet Contemplation

Sputnik SweetheartI remember wanting to read Sputnik Sweetheart when it first came out and I spotted it on the tables in the bookshops. I’ve read a few Murakami novels starting with when I was a young teenager and picked Dance, Dance, Dance off my Dad’s shelf – and while I wasn’t expecting such a dreamlike plot-line, I found it absorbing, curious and strangely addictive which lead me to read A Wild Sheep Chase, Kafka on the Shore, The The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. I inherited my copy of Sputnik Sweetheart after an old flatmate left it behind so I’ve kept it safe and found a good excuse to read it for Dolce Belezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge.

The narrator, a teacher, is in love with the beguiling, odd Sumire. As his best friend, she is not averse to phoning at three or four in the morning to ask a pointless question or share a strange thought. Sumire, though, is in love with a beautiful, older woman, Miu, who does not, can not, return her affections. Longing for Sumire, K (that is all we are told by way of a name) finds some comfort in a purely sexual relationship with the mother of one of his pupils. But the consolation is slight. K is unhappy. Miu and Sumire, now working together, take a business trip to a Greek Island. Something happens, he is not told what, and so K travels to Greece to see what help he can offer.

The main themes of the book centre around loneliness and alienation. All the characters are lonely in their own way and are joined together (or separated – however you want to see it) by unrequited love. They have loving friendships but there are insurmountable barriers between them. Sumire has lesbian feelings for Miu, which she finds confusing and seems to spark a sort of untapped desire in her. This unusual love triangle creates a beautiful but melancholic feel to the novel similar to that which I found in On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan.

Communication is very important in the novel, whether it be through writing (Sumire is an aspiring author) or by telephone (Sumire often calls K from a telephone booth at random times in the morning). It links the characters together but it also emphasises their separation as if they in two different worlds. Sounds odd? It is a little and the book gets quite dreamlike and obscure towards the end.

I found this to be a very sweet novel in the sense that I really felt the strength of the characters emotions for each other and it left me in a contemplative mood. As I mentioned, it does get a little abstract towards the end, but that is typical of Murakami’s writing! That did leave me feeling a little unsatisfied, but then that I suppose reflects the mood of the novel.

Reading it a few months after visiting Japan it was a joy to be able to imagine some of the places that are referred to in the novel .This was definitely a book I looked forward to picking up and ‘exploring’ and very much enjoyed the beautiful writing. I am quite in awe of how Murakami manages to evoke such beautiful images and metaphors with relatively sparse content (it’s a quick read) and at the same time creating a story that is a pleasure to read. His writing makes me think without making my head hurt, or feeling that it is a chore to read.

Recommended for when you fancy reading something a bit different. A taste of Murakami in it’s shortest form.

Have you read any Murakami or other Japanese authors that you enjoyed?

Teaser Tuesdays – Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami


“No matter  what I’m asked to do, no matter what I’m ordered to do, all I can do is say yes, she realised. Miu gazed steadily at Sumire, still holding her hand. Sumire could make out clearly her own figure reflected inside Miu’s dark eyes. It looked to her like her own soul being sucked into the other side of a mirror. Sumire loved that vision, and at the same time it frightened her.”

Page 42, Sputnik Sweetheart, Haruki Murakami.

Sputnik Sweetheart

More Novel Insights Teaser Tuesdays: Armadale, Wilkie Collins (Classic Literature), Child 44, Tom Rob Smith (Crime / Thriller)

Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge 3

Belatedly I’ve decided to join Dolce Bellezza‘s Japanese Literature Challenge as I have read quite a few Japanese novels and enjoyed them. The ones that I have read have been a bit off-beat, or even downright strange. This is something I understand a little more in the context of Japanese culture having visited the country on my travels a few months ago. Of course I mean strange in a good way – unique, stretching, often a little surreal and fascinating!

The novel that springs to mind that I’d like to read is Out by Natsuo Kirino as i found Grotesque, by the same author really interesting. However I thought I’d put it out there to see if other people have any different suggestions. I’ve read quite a bit of Haruki Murakami (A Wild Sheep Chase, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore) and Natsuo Kirino’s Out as mentioned.

Has anyone read any novels by Japanese writers lately that they might recommend?