Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

I finally started listening to a book that has been on my list for quite some time – The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.  Isn’t that a great title?  And the reason for the title is revealed only a short way into the novel which is pleasing as I get really annoyed with some novels when you are almost finished and you still don’t ‘get it’, or you even finish it and it’s not apparent at all (one prime example is Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley, though my mind was put to rest after a search on Google).  The Wind Up Bird is a name given to a bird that sounds like it is winding up a spring that Toru, our protagonist, hears each morning, though he has never actually seen it.  It is also a nickname that he has chosen for himself when being questioned what nicknames he has had over his life-time; not having had any he decides on this one.

At the moment the story is centering around Toru and Kumiko Okada’s missing cat, who is named after Kumiko’s brother.  There’s no love lost between Toru and his brother in law Noboru and after a meeting with a strange woman about the missing cat she claims that Noboru had raped her sister.  Toru’s life is mundane but in between there are unusual phone calls from people Toru doesn’t know who claim to know him, and know much about him.  The situations he finds himself in are normal yet bizarre, and the conversations are unnatural.  The people he meets are seemingly not quite normal, and even his own wife is behaving irrationally getting upset over the colour of the toilet paper which he had purchased on special….. And it all started with the missing cat!

At the moment I love it; it absolutely reeks of Franz Kafka and David Lynch, though at over 600 pages long I’m not sure how long this style can be sustained whilst keeping my interest.  However, at the moment I am finding it very hypnotic.

Middlemarch is now in mourning – well Dorothea is anyway.  Mr Casaubon has passed away and been buried.  It has been revealed that he had added a codicil to his will that should Dorothea re-marry she loses all property willed to her.  But this is only effective if she marries a certain person - it was put in there to stop Will Ladislaw from making any advances towards her due to Casaubon’s intense jealously of him.  But her family are concerned that its outward appearance to Middlemarchers would be that Dorothea had invited Will’s attentions whilst she was still a married woman.

Dorothea is staying with her sister Celia, her husband Sir James Chettam and their young son.  Celia is coming across as very shallow and hurtful towards Dorothea, seeming to believe that Mr Casaubon’s death could not have come too soon and asking how wonderful is her son’s upper lip (all in the same sentence) with absolutely no thought to Dorothea’s feelings. Sir James is determined to do something about Will Ladislaw by sending him away somewhere, and poor Dorothea is feeling a bit lost at the moment.  Sir James felt that something should have been done to prevent her marriage to Mr Casaubon and he’s going to make damn sure she doesn’t fall into any future mistakes.  I like this character actually, he had once proposed to Dorothea but she turned him down and was at times very rude to him, but he holds no grudges against her whatsoever and just wants what’s best for her.  But what’s best in someone’s eyes is not always what is best all round……. We’ll have to wait and see on that score.

Whilst reading up a little bit about this novel (which apparently started out as a short story about Dorothea Brooke and another short story about a country doctor) it was mentioned that Middlemarch was the superior novel of it’s type compared with Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (one of my favourites), Dickens’ Bleak House (I was disappointed with that one), a couple of others which I can’t remember and I can’t be bothered to dig out the info (!) and Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell.  I love Elizabeth Gaskell so will be putting that on my list for this year.

I’ve almost finished Violent Exposure, with not much more to relate really just waiting to see if the ending is satisfying.  For a light read away from the classics it’s been pretty good.  I might find time to read an earlier book Frantic before our Book Club talk.  I’ve also taken a break from Melmoth for a couple of nights; only because I’m trying to get through the Katherine Howell’s before our meeting, but will get back to it soon.

Note: Only two days until my birthday J

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