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Book Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

     This is one of those books that demands to be discussed.  I know because after my boyfriend lent it to me and I finished it, I called him immediately.  I wanted to talk about two aspects of the story in particular - its tip-of-the-iceberg character development and its web of seemingly random but of course meaningful details.
Me and the boyfriend who lent me the book
     Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki follows the title character's quest to understand, in his early thirties, why his four beloved high school friends cut him off while he was in college.  Their rejection of him was sudden, mysterious, and brutal, casting him into a suicidal depression.  Years after the depression has ended, Tsukuru still feels scarred by the rejection.  He believes in his heart that he is empty, isolated, colorless, and unable to fully connect with others.  But when he meets Sara, a woman to whom he feels inexplicably drawn, he realizes that he must confront his past and his four former friends in order to pursue a serious relationship with her.
     Sara, however, is not your average plot device masquerading as a two-dimensional female character.  She wears exquisite, professional outfits.  She prefers intimate, unpretentious bistros.  She's forthright about what she wants.  She has a successful career working for a travel agency.  She keeps her personal life private.  She always orders dessert.
     Furthermore, Sara does not come into Tsukuru's life and magically make him happy.  Instead, she tells him that, if he wants a sexual relationship with her, he must resolve issues from his past that may cause problems between them in the future.  He must help himself in order to have a chance with her.
     Tsukuru really knows very little about Sara; they only go on a few dates over the course of the entire book.  But much more is hinted at in her careful choice of clothes and the care she takes in entering a relationship, among other things.  She, like every other character in this book, has a complete life apart from Tsukuru's experience of the world, with anxieties, passions, and preferences of her own.  It was refreshing to read a book written from the male perspective featuring complex female characters like Sara.
     It was also refreshing and exciting to dissect the web of unusual symbols that appear in this story.  Colors (and colorlessness), train stations, sixth fingers, cars, and specific pieces of classical music, among others, appear repeatedly throughout Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.  I don't know how these symbols connect to one another, but I can feel the cohesion, as though taut strands linked these random things to one another and to the story's core.  Haruki Murakami's symbols, like his characters, are minimal but more deeply meaningful for it. 


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