Genre: Literary Fiction
Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Harvill Secker (UK)
Publication Year: 2013 (Japan)/2014 (UK)
Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school who one day announce they no longer want to see him, or talk to him, ever again. Sixteen years on, it’s time for him to discover why.
Those familiar with Haruki Murakami will know of the fantasy elements that run through most of his books; parallel universes, taking cats, and mysterious wells being just a few. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage is a break away from that. Like his 1987 novel Norwegian Wood, this focuses purely on the people and the relationships between them. Being an ardent admirer of Murakami I spent the whole novel seeing foreboding where there wasn’t any and seeing potential supernatural within the story. This did not lead to disappointment however. As always the writing holds such a magical quality to it that attention is captivated without the need for magic in the plot.
After his four closest school friends cut Tsukuru Tazaki out of their lives he undergoes a transformation that almost kills him. Contemplating death at every turn his life almost spiraled away from him. Sixteen years later having survived that period and setting up a quiet and lonely life for himself Tsukuru still does not know why his friends did such a thing to him. With the help of Sara, the women he begins to fall for, he goes on a journey to discover the past.
The plot is very simple and nothing much of anything really happens, which is surprising given how gripping the book actually is. Tsukuru Tazaki thinks of himself as empty with nothing much to offer the world, buy neurontin following his simple, quiet life through the simple, quiet writing I grew to love this character. A very ordinary man with no extraordinary qualities, and no extraordinary events in his life aside from the mystery of why his friends abandoned him so brutally.
The characters have great depth to them, with each persona being interesting in their own way. The ability to write such ordinarily flawed people that capture the heart is proof of Murakami’s talent. It is all too easy to identify with the characters regardless of their actions. Mental illness is a big theme throughout the novel and is broached in a sensitive and real way without being overly discussed. Homosexuality is also touched upon, again with subtlety and sensitivity. This is a topic Murakami loves to weave into his stories. Reading of characters that are naturally queer or have a singular homosexual experience without conflict or panic is incredibly refreshing and what more authors should strive to do.
Perhaps it was my anticipation of what was to come that helped create such a gripping read for me. There were moments where I became convinced of what was to come only to find out it was something much simpler and ordinary. Perhaps if I was not so well versed in the style of Murakami I would not have enjoyed it as I did. However I believe that the undeniably unique style of this author will always win through, regardless of how simple the plot may be. The novel itself reflects the protagonist Tsukuru in how colorless it appears, yet that colorlessness in itself has tremendous colour of its own.