Book Review: Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami


Haruki Murakami is arguably one of Japan's finest, modern writers and is, increasingly, being seen as one of the top authors working today. The last novel of his to find its way to these shores, Norwegian Wood, was a delightful, if slightly one-dimensional coming-of-age tale. The pyrotechnics of his previous, more surreal novels (Wind Up Bird Chronicle and A Wild Sheep Chase) had disappeared but something of his eccentricity, what made his books such a wonder, had disappeared too. Sputnik Sweetheart is a confident continuation of this more simple style yet one that retains the allegories, the depth of his best work.
The narrator, a teacher, is in love with the beguiling, odd Sumire. As his best friend, she is not adverse 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.
Themes of love, loss, sexuality, identity and selfhood are all interrogated, woven into a compelling, romantic, serious and sometimes sad book. It is a disarmingly simple, hugely satisfying, intelligent and moving work and one of Murakami's best. Simplicity, sprinkled with a dose of his magic, has enabled Murakami to write candidly, succinctly and beautifully about the complications and difficulties of love and loving. --Mark Thwaite
This was such a simple, yet very powerful novel. Murakami always comes up when you search for "magical realism" writers. This is my second Murakami novel (first was Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World) and now I feel like I've looked into the magical realism he creates. 

The story is about Samure, who's a college drop-out, wanting to be a writer. K, the narrator, is her best friend and is also in love with her. Samure does love him, but not the way he wants to be loved back. Then, she meets a woman twice her age called Miu and declares she's in love with her. Miu asks Samure to work for her and put the novel writing to the side for a while. Samure accepts the offer. They travel to different countries together, for business, and then find themselves on a tiny Greek island. That's when Samure vanishes into thin air, and Miu calls K to come out and help her find him.

This was a very beautifully written story about the dynamics between people, how you can't always get what you want, and how one evolves into adulthood. It makes one question the real and the surreal, and how everyone views the world differently. And, if you've ever been through a fucked up situation you have no explanations for, you won't feel alone after reading this. 

The story is mysterious from beginning to end because you keep wondering whether Samure and K will unite. I also found myself thinking Miu would do something evil-- don't ask me why; it was just a feeling I got. In the end, though, Samure just disappears, and K and Miu try to find her. I felt like while K was trying to look for her, he was questioning how much he knew her. He knew where she might have left clues, if she did leave any, but he couldn't really make anything out of them.

Pumped up with all the beautiful metaphors, especially the obvious Sputnik one,  I really liked the feeling this book left with me. You never know what's going to happen, and losing someone is not the end of the world, no matter how much you've loved them. 

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