The narrator, Charlton Griffin's strangely affected mid-Atlantic accept is so irritating and distracting, and his character voicing so off-putting that it heavily detracts from the story and the enjoyment of the book. He hams his performance up like anything, and where exactly are these accents supposed to come from?
The book starts off really movingly as Hitch describes his family. The further he moves into his adult career the more it starts to alternately like a vehicle for name dropping and an extended self-justification for his political change of heart.
I really loved this book, and the narration helps, rather than hinders, the engagement with the plot.
As always with Murakami, the underlying surreal plot is riveting and arresting. However, the weaknesses of the book itself are compounded by the performance. I could have been thrilled by this book if it were well edited (to cut the endless repetition and endless pages of irrelevant detail), and performed well.
Murakami's underlying plot, in common with his other novels (of which I am an enthusiastic fan), is inventive, mysterious, and charming; by turns dark, humorous, and melancholy.
The undoing of the book is (and perhaps Murakami has now become too famous to listen to his editors) the long, tedious passages of detailed description of the minutia of every day existence drawn out at great length. Add to this multiple repetitions of the same thoughts and facts, and one almost gets the sense that he was being compensated by the word.
Finally, the nail in the coffin is the performance. Others had spoken of this in their reviews, but I failed to heed their warning. While Marc Vietor and Mark Boyett do their job well, Allison Hiroto is dreadful. The pace of her narration is painstaking, and when she does her characters, is slows down even further to a snails pace. Furthermore, she insists on adopting daft (slow) voices for each and every character aside from the heroin Aomame.
I found I could compensate for Hiroto's infuriating narration by playing her parts of the book at 1.5x speed, and switching to 2x speed whenever she was voicing 'the dowager' or Tamaru. With this measure the speech is once again at 'normal' speaking pace, but it requires a lot of fiddling and one really shouldn't have to do this.
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