4 out of 5 stars
Growing up as an only child in Japan was quite unusual, but Hajime had go used to not having other brothers and sisters around. He was attracted to Shimamoto, another of his age who was an only child. They spent many afternoons listening to her father’s record collection. His parent decided to move away and they lost contact. He had a girlfriend, Izumi, but they never got close and his attention was diverted elsewhere. He drifted around for a while ending up working for an educational publisher until one day he got caught in a storm and dashed undercover, there were two girls sheltering from the rain and it was there he met who was to become his soul mate and wife, Yukiko.
Now in his late thirties, he is the owner and manager of two successful jazz cocktail bars and is happily married with two daughters. Life is good, but it is about to change once again because as he is sitting at the bar one night he realises that one of his customers is Shimamoto, the girl who haunted his teenage years and has been a figment of his dreams is now there, in his bar, and looking more beautiful than ever. Even though this is the moment that he has dreamt of so often, all that he has achieved is now going to be in jeopardy.
I think that is one of my favourite of Murakami’s that I have read so far. It contains a lot of his familiar tropes, ideal if you are playing Murakami bingo (here). There is less magical realism in it as well, instead, it is firmly rooted in real life. He is not yet at the mid-life crisis point, and while he isn’t unhappy, he is not feeling happy either. The girl who he knew and once loved reappearing in his life once again is the catalyst to unravel what he thought was never going to change. There are elements of mystery in it too, another ex who appears in the same area he is living now who he glimpses through a window one day and Shimamoto who comes and goes like the wind and leaves no trace of her movements. Can thoroughly recommend this as I felt it was more readable than his other books.