Kafka on the Shore

AuthorHaruki Murakami
FinishedDecember 19, 2021
Rating4.5 / 5

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One of Murakami's most excellent works. Such a dreamy magical realism novel, so many well-crafted moving parts that fit so well together. The book follows Kafka, a 15-year-old runaway from home, cursed by an Oedpius-like prophecy that he must sleep with his mother and kill his father, as well as an old man named Nakata who has come back from the dead and can speak with cats. The writing is beautiful and the "strange happenings" (such as ghosts appearing, fish raining from the sky, entering the world of spirits) are described and experienced in such a subtle, natural way.

My only critique is one that I find myself bringing up often with Murakami books in general: lack of female characters. Not that female characters do not appear in this book, but that they are quite flat (in my opinion). Male characters like Kafka, Hoshino, and even Nakata to some extent goes through tremendous growth. However, Sakura and Miss Saeki just feel like plot devices to me. Miss Saeki is just an object for Kafka to love and agonize over but to me, she just feels a bit dead. I suppose that is part of the point of the book, that she has already died when she was younger (hence the ghost of the young girl) ... but still, she just felt like a really flat character. Sakura, too, is a dreamy character - I understand the role of her character in this book (and in some cases, she does appear in a dream as well). However, I didn't like how both of the role of the major women in this book were as dream-like ghost-like appearances coloring Kafka's growth.