After reading about the unnamed narrator in A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance, I knew I had to get my hands on the novels that started it all. The mystery that enveloped his character was something I had to understand. And as much as A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance were two books that could stand on its own, I knew reading the rest of the series would blow my mind.
I got these two novels as a single book. A back-to-back novel where one ended, the other started. It also includes an introduction by Haruki Murakami where he tells us how he became a writer. One distinct thing that struck me as I was reading his introduction was his writing style. He found writing in Japanese troublesome hence he writes in English first then translates it to Japanese. That alone deserves respect.
Let’s get on to the review then.
Hear The Wind Sing
This book starts everything. This is where we meet the unnamed narrator for the first time with his friend the Rat. The unnamed narrator is on school break and he comes home to a small town. He spends his break smoking and drinking at a local bar, J’s Bar, where he has countless talks about his frustrations in life.
Somehow this book disappointed me and it wasn’t the author’s fault. I really had a hard time reading this book. As much as I am used to Haruki’s writing style, reading a novel, this style of novel, was really painful for me. At times I couldn’t understand who was narrating and I sometimes got lost with the flow of words. Somehow, the transition wasn’t there for me and that became an issue.
I also didn’t connect with this book because it felt like I was reading about two young whiny boys. This may or may not come root from the reason stated above. I’d love to give this book another chance but as far as first impressions go, it was definitely a miss for me.
The story of the unnamed narrator and the Rat continues in this book. Fast-forward three years later, we find the unnamed narrator in Tokyo working as a translator while the Rat is still in his hometown. Since the two major characters are already separated, we also get two different perspectives but both are still centered on their quest to understand life.
For this book, I definitely connected with the unnamed narrator and his fixation to find an old pinball machine. This part of the story, especially as he found the pinball machine and talked to it, really resonated with me. It’s all about the connections in life we make and how it could potentially impact and shape us.
I also deeply appreciated the evolution of the Rat. Three years later, he is still in his hometown doing the same things but somehow he had an epiphany. He was able to transform and come out of his shell. He wanted a change and he finally got it.
I prefer reading this book over the first one because of the improved writing style and somehow a connection with the characters. In this novel, it definitely feels like Murakami was telling me about mid-life crisis and how everyone goes through them differently. Some might want to go back to the past to solve long forgotten issues while some might want a complete change. At the end of it all, it’s all about life and how we must continue to live and grow.
Overall, reading these two novels cemented my love for the Rat series. It completed the mystery regarding the history of the unnamed narrator as I was taken back to the start to learn why he became who he was. It completed the whole journey for me. If this unnamed narrator was a friend, I would feel like he’ll be okay because I now understand why he is who he is. I’d be more confident that he’ll survive in the real world because I know he went through a lot just to become who he is.
This series is a lot different from all the other fiction works I’ve read as it thoroughly taught me about life. It shared with me the start as you get to know yourself (Hear the Wind Sing), the awkward midlife as you try and get purpose and meaning to it all (Pinball, 1973), the almost end where everything seems like a waste (A Wild Sheep Chase), and the painful reminder that life is what it is and you just have to keep going (Dance, Dance, Dance). Four beautiful pieces of literature that I know I’ll be reading again.
I’ll be ending this review with one of the most precious lines I’ve read in Pinball, 1973. A painful but beautiful reminder.
Have you read any of the Rat series books? Are you as stoked as I am? Please tell me!! 🙂