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Publisher's Summary

Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat.... Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo.

As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid 16-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

Gripping, prophetic, suffused with comedy and menace, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a tour de force equal in scope to the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon.

©1997 Haruki Murakami (P)2013 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Dreamlike and compelling.... Murakami is a genius." ( Chicago Tribune)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful book, flawed narration.

If you could sum up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle in three words, what would they be?

Murakami's wonderfully delicate, mysterious and absorbing novel is terribly marred by the narration here; Degas renders the main character unpleasantly arch and snarky initially and seems to be struggling without success to find the right voice for him throughout; children and teens have voices like obnoxious TV cartoon characters, and both female and children's voices are indicated by a very rapid, jerky, breathy, oddly pitched delivery that's just all wrong and actually jarring. The tone throughout is much too theatrical and feverish for the quiet deeps, wry humor and reflective unfolding of this tale.I loved reading this book - Murakami's stories never seem abstract and 'experimental' in the off-putting way at all and I can never put them down. Other narrators have done Murakami really, really well (1Q84, with multiple readers, is terrific, as is Kafka By the Shore with Sean Barrett and Oliver Le Sueur ). Degas just never gets the mood of the work right, to my mind.

What did you like best about this story?

I'm a Murakawa fan; would just add to the many reviews of his work something that's often not mentioned - not only are they deeply beautiful, his novels are really fun to read. I think he's often made out to be less accessible than he is; newcomers should just relax and flow along with the narrative and not be too worried about assembling things - just kick back and enjoy the ride. Even with a poor narrator it's a dandy.

Would you be willing to try another one of Rupert Degas’s performances?

No indeed. I'm really not such a hard critic of audiobook performances and appreciate many readers deeply, but a good reader needs to understand and respect his characters and not deliver caricatures.

Any additional comments?

I didn't closely follow the outline suggested here (seriously?), but would say that this is a tremendous tale, difficult to put down for those who like Murakami's work, and widely reviewed elsewhere; I only wanted to warn readers that they might be unfairly put off this author by the disappointing performance here.

83 of 87 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it - even most of the narration

The female voices did leave a bit to be desired, but it did not distract me from the writing and the voice of the protagonist was excellent.

This was really engaging writing with a big dose of magical realism which both resonated honesty while being over-to-top extraordinary. I really loved the protagonist as he deals with real-life issues as he smoothly flows into a world of magic, inner life, and visions.

It is almost unbelievable this is a translation. The writing feels so personal, which can get lost in translations.

I will likely listen to this book again.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great story. Make narrators "female voice" incredibly distracting

Please tell male narrators that womens voices aren't all high pitched and breathy. It is almost impossible to listen to these "female" voices. If there needs to be a vocal change, hire a women to play a woman. I finished reading the book because the "female" voices in this recording are incredibly grating. I am a women and all of the "female voices" in this reading sound like a man trying to imitate a small child. I can't take it.

73 of 79 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Narrator almost ruined the book

I really messed myself by trying to do this book on audio. The audio was awful, and yet somehow I made it 75% of the way through. The narrator was a British/Australian voicing his Japanese characters with American accents. Worse, there was one (frequent character) who sounded like a South Park character, and the end of the audio for me was a Gilbert Godfrey voice. The guy just overdid every character.

I picked up the print version for the last 25% of the book and I wish I'd read the whole thing.

As far as the story goes, I liked it OK. Didn't love it. So much of it was dreams or dream like. And a lot of those dreams were wet dreams (Sorry.) There's a cat and a wife, a neighbor and a well. Random war stories, a politician brother, and psychic sisters Malta and Creta. I didn't "get it".

I think if this is your first Murakami it could be great and could really grab you because it is unique, but I've read a lot of Murakami and it just didn't do anything for me. I think I'm done with Murakami for now.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

I Toughed The Narrator Out

This book is so good and I was totally wrapped up in it the whole time. It kept me engaged from start to finish. The vivid imagery was so effective and everything that happened kept me asking questions. It was so good that I could tough it out with Rupert Degas.

Good lord. Why do narrators have to do voices? I looked it up and he does like kid’s shows voice overs too. It shows. Some characters were okay, but some others were just gearing beyond belief to the point I had to ask “what fevered part of this person’s brain decided that this voice was a good call?” I get that an audiobook is a different product than a book, so you have to accept that the way it’s read and the way you’ve decided to take in the information effects your interpretation of the story. So, I want to give some room for okay and accept that the story might sound differently than how it might in my head. But, I could not find any a real understanding for some of the garishly cartoonish voices used for some of the characters, especially the women.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Fantastical story, poor choices by narrator

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I've recently discovered Murakami and his style of writing is the perfect form of escapism for me: mysterious, fantastical, evocative, and darkly funny. I particularly love the sense of isolation of some of the main characters as they do mundane things in their Tokyo apartments. Sometimes the author's ambiguity and leaving loose ends untied is a bit of a letdown as you reach the end of his novels, but the overall journey more than makes up for it. I've listened to 1Q84 and now The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and decided to leave a review because of the contrast in the quality of the narrations. I have not been able to write a review of 1Q84 because I listened to it on a friend's account, but I will once I purchase the audiobook myself, which I intend to do as I loved it. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle I cannot entirely recommend on Audible however. I wish I had read the book instead. Rupert Degas voices many of the characters as cliched caricatures, particularly the female characters. I did enjoy what he did with Lieutenant Mamiya, but May Kasahara, one of the characters I most enjoyed, was a disaster. Degas reduced the morbid and reckless teenager to an absurdly annoying cheerleader.I don't understand how someone can read a phrase like 'I really did have nightmares in that place- all the time- and I'd wake up soaked in sweat, but even then I'd wish I could have kept dreaming, because my nightmares were way better than reality in that place.' and think 'I know, I'll do my best Kim Kardashian on speed impression!' Maybe it was meant to be extra disturbing that way. Didn't work for me.

Would you be willing to try another one of Rupert Degas’s performances?

Nope

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Absolutely! Can David Lynch direct it?

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

The narrator detracts from this gorey tale!

The narration was so distracting to me that I wondered how the story would be different with a better narrator. Degas fails to take into account that these people are Japanese and the story takes place in Japan. I'm not saying the characters should have Japanese accents, but the 15 year old girl shouldn't sound like an irritating Valley Girl! Some of the female voices mocks the characters they represent. It's painful listening to Mai and the ditzy voice discounts any value to her words.
None of the voices match the characters personalities. Our protagonist sounds more like an effeminate single guy than a suburban married man, and the character of Ushi (spelling?) sounding like Peter Lori detracts heavily from the story. It makes it too camp.

The story is at times stunningly graphic. The ability of the writer to conjure up scenes of torture and man's inhumanity to man may be a bit too much for those who are more sensitive. There is the ability for the horror to become rather too vivid when your mind visually fills in the scenes of men being skinned alive. I am not a person who is in any way delicate and some of it made me blanch.
This is a story of surreal fantasy and there are times the reader feels lost as to what is going on or feel they've missed something. A few of the subplots feel slightly unresolved as well.

The sex scenes are also relatively graphic but not so bad as torture scene by far.

Basically a very ordinary man who is floundering a bit in life and is feeling directionless after resigning from his job and has his life turned upside down the moment that his cat disappears. Murakami likes adding cats to his stories. From there, he gets odd phone calls from even stranger people. Which culminate in the life altering event of his wife disappearing. He is then thrown into contact with many odd and usually attractive women leaving the reader to wonder why he never contemplated locking the door and disconnecting his phone. From here on out we hear the stories of soldiers mentally scarred by the atrocities of war and some women with special gifts who often have been violated in sexual or psychological ways or both. If this all sounds confusing it is.
The book is the story of a living nightmare which our protagonist goes through where he becomes equally odd and often has a far too calm way of handling it. It's a bit tough to figure out how he really feels at times as most of us would not have reacted with equal equanimity at being trapped in a well.

Honestly, I couldn't put it down, but I'm not sure how much I enjoyed it. I would suggest that you read this one instead of listening to it to avoid the narration that will most likely leaving you distracted from the story thinking about the narration quirks and failures and how it effects the interpretation of the text.

Sarah in Brooklyn.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A Huge, Heavy, Creepy, Cool Murakami

A weird metaphysical (I KNOW it is a bit redundant to start off ANY review of Murakami by dressing it up in adjectives like weird & metaphysical) novel. I remember wanting to buy this book back in 2007, but I was poor and just about to get married and it seemed like my limited money would be better spent on bread and cheese. Now I own three (four if you count audible), but I still wish I bought it. I still regret NOT buying it. Not necessarily because I wish I had read it earlier. I think I'm reading Wind-Up Bird Chronicle at exactly the right point for me, but just because I would have liked to carry that book with me like some form of lucky talisman during the last 17 years (kinda like what I did with Infinite Jest). And it is more than that ... I actually remember in my brain THE book. Displayed with the bird eye out against a support beam in the bookstore. I regret not buying THAT book.

I've now read about all of Murakami. Well not quite. I still have to read: 1Q84, Sputnik Sweetheart, Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche, Hear the Wind Sing & Pinball, 1973. That's it. After THAT I'm done. Anyway, my point is even after reading 11 or more previous Murakami novels I still exit W-BC a bit uncertain.

I liked it a lot and think it is an important novel and worth the listen/read, but it just seemed a bit too untidy or ambiguous. I KNOW. The novel is built on ambiguity, uncertainty, evil, weird coincidences, funky time, projections, reflections, shadows. My only criticism is that sometimes the shadows seemed to cover the reflections (metaphorically speaking). Sometimes, I read a page and was left with not just a WTF moment, but exhausted from not knowing WHY it twas a WTF moment. Anyway, there still is no escaping that the novel is huge, creepy, cool, and feels like David Lynch should make the movie (complete with midgets and nymphets). For me it was a 21st century novel written in the last decade of the 20th century, reflecting on the evils and history of the past and present Japan.

38 of 43 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Narrator Nearly Ruins a Fine Book

Murakami's books are all consuming and create a multicolored and multi-textured faceted immersive world.

He crafts characters, environments and existential journeys that can seem both real, and dreamlike.

I realize that reading a book then listening to it by a specific narrator is bound to create two different experiences, and I was ready for that. I hoped it would help me integrate and round out more thoroughly a book, with which I was already in love.

What I wasn't ready for, was Rupert Degas' inconsequential treatment of finely developed characters. I have a hard time believing that Murakami would have approved of Degas treatment of Mr. Honda, May Kasahara and Nutmeg. In fact most of the female characters, at best, seem ill conceived or misunderstood and at worst denigrating and demeaning.

I've always thought that Murakami communicates ephemeral and subversive ideas through important and subtle female roles. Degas' voice for May is probably the worst aesthetic decision made by the narrator, because she sets an underlying emotional atmosphere where where Toru's can subtly evolve safely. The chosen voice is childish, single faceted and skewed in a weirdly stereotypical way.

May's character, I had previously perceived, as a somewhat jaded, quiet spoken, playful projection of Murakami's desire to prod the Toru character. She does this as a precocious yet physically underdeveloped teen who is older than her body would have us believe. In my mind, this was a hint that her role was incredibly important to Toru's transition. She epitomizes the outside world that Toru rejects, a world that doesn't necessarily hate him but toys with and discombobulates him. The grating, immature, nasally, whining voice created by Degas is assaulting. It's a half baked assault that makes any of May's carefully written dialogue a travesty.

I wish I had never heard it and it colors my ability to integrate and understand her character, at all. I love this book but, wow, now I may have to go back and re-read her part to complete some thoughts about the message.

Btw, Nutmeg's voice is simply unbearable, for different reasons. Oh, and same thing for Mr. Honda, I had to turn the volume down for him. Sheesh!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A great novel tarnished by a terrible performance

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Many of the performer's voices were distractingly awful. His voice for May sounds exactly like a man doing a comedic impression of an annoying teenage girl for a broad comedy, his voice for Ushikara is a bad villain stereotype from a low budget Hanna Barbera cartoon, and he insists on reading the 'news story' chapters using a poor imitation of a classic newsreel narrator. The only thing that kept me listening was the wonderful writing of Murakami itself, which deserves the respect of a competent vocal actor.

23 of 26 people found this review helpful