Synopsis (from Amazon)
Kafka on the Shore follows the fortunes of two remarkable characters. Kafka Tamura runs away from home at fifteen, under the shadow of his father’s dark prophesy. The aging Nakata, tracker of lost cats, who never recovered from a bizarre childhood affliction, finds his pleasantly simplified life suddenly turned upside down. Their parallel odysseys are enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerising dramas. Cats converse with people; fish tumble from the sky; a ghostlike pimp deploys a Hegel-spouting girl of the night; a forest harbours soldiers apparently un-aged since WWII. There is a savage killing, but the identity of both victim and killer is a riddle. Murakami’s novel is at once a classic quest, but it is also a bold exploration of mythic and contemporary taboos, of patricide, of mother-love, of sister-love. Above all it is an entertainment of a very high order.
In a way this is a coming of age novel, but to call it that is far too simple, and to compare it to any other coming of age novel would be pretty much impossible. As with my previous experiences with Murakami this book is completely bizarre and like nothing else I’ve ever read- even, to some extent, Murakami’s other novels. I found this one a little more logical than the others. Maybe it’s just because I am used to Murakami’s style. It’s not that the story itself was ‘normal’ but that the events fitted together more logically than in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles for instance. I can’t say I could exactly predict things most of the time but what happened didn’t surprise me. There was one point when I was able to predict what would happen but when it did happen the way it was written was as if Murakami expected you to have guessed, almost like he was saying ‘yeah you thought you’d got to the point where you understood me but I’m way ahead of you, I meant for you to guess’.
As far as characters go I felt much more attached to the characters in Kafka on the Shore than I have in previous Murakami novels. I think there was something sort of more realistic about them, except they weren’t like anyone I’ve ever known, at least for the most part. I guess what I mean is that I got a clearer view of them as characters. I really liked Hoshino, mainly because he seemed like the reader, completely confused by everything going on but still enthralled.
In a way I think Hoshino was the reader. Murakami speaks a lot of the importance of metaphors and I think that explains his writting to a certain extent, although God knows how long it would take to get to the bottom of the metaphors. I did get the sense by the end that everything had been a metaphor for something Kafka has to go through on his journey. In a way though I think the metaphors are a little misleading and Kafka puts too much emphasis on them and gets into trouble for it.
Every time I read a new (to me) Murakami I love it even more than the next. I think I forget how beautiful and engrossing his writing is. If you have the chance you should really give him a try.