“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”
– Haruki Murakami, Kafka On The Shore
Readers highly appreciate Murakami’s Kafka On The Shore because of its surrealism, vividness, and amazing plotline, making the book incredibly absurd. But its terribly convoluted story leads to criticism by the readers as well.
It’s not easy to comprehend Murakami’s writings, and many readers give up halfway through his books, which is understandable due to the depth of surrealistic elements most of his novels hold. However, there are a plethora of readers who love reading Murakami’s works and are extremely involved in his writings.
One of this author’s most talked about books is Kafka On The Shore, which gained immense popularity and is still in readers’ memories as an impactful read.
I am a Murakami fan and greatly liked Kafka On the Shore. However, I have different opinions regarding several parts of the novel. Today, I will give my honest review of this book and a short summary.
I will make it interesting so you can have an overall idea about the novel and its author, and you will definitely walk away with a different perspective.
I am so excited to write this review, so let’s get started, shall we?
Summary of Kafka On the Shore
Kafka On The Shore was published in Japan in 2002; in 2005, Phillip Gabriel translated it into English.
The story interconnects two parallel universes that initially seem like different plots but later merge to serve a powerful purpose.
The book introduces us to a 15-year-old boy named Kafka Tamura. He is dealing with internal conflicts such as his estranged relationship with his father, a hollowness deep buried within due to never getting his mother’s affection, loneliness due to a missing sibling, and more.
He also wants to discover his identity and plans to leave home to find his mother and sister. Another reason is to escape his father’s Oedipal prophecy, which states, ‘He will kill his own father and sleep with his mother and sister.’
Kafka leaves his home and ends up in Takamatsu in South Japan. He struggles to find a good place to live for a few weeks, but later gets shelter in a library. The library owner, Miss Saeki, and the worker, Oshima, hire him to handle small chores. From here, the complex story of Kafka begins.
The other part describes a bizarre incident in a village that leads a boy to be in a coma for weeks. The boy turns out to be Mr. Nakata, the story’s other main character.
Nakata loses his ability to read and write and becomes mentally challenged after the unusual accident but gains the power to talk to cats. Nakata is now an older man living a solitary life with government subsidies and a little extra money he makes by finding the missing cats of various people in the neighborhood.
One day, Nakata falls into real trouble, which results in him murdering a man and starting an unknown journey, where he witnesses fish and leeches falling from the sky and many other absurd instances and finally takes him to where Kafka is.
A plethora of events happen in the rest of the story, which hooks you from the beginning, making the book unputdownable.
My Review of Kafka On The Shore
I was not familiar with the works of Haruki Murakami when I started reading the book Kafka On The Shore. It is a lengthy novel, but once I started reading, the book piqued my interest and made me sit for hours engrossed in the story.
Many other readers, including me, will admit that initially, the book might seem confusing and weird because of all the bizarre incidents. But absurdity was one of the central themes of this book, making all the scenes justifiable.
If I talk about the entire plot, it is incredibly well written with many major themes incorporated, making the book worthy of your time. I was not rushing to finish the novel because I wanted to devour this book and focused my mind on reading it meticulously.
I learned about the Oediphial prophecy, which is an essential part of the story. Apart from the theme of magical realism, the creative use of absurdity, solitude, metaphors, etc., is another interesting aspect of this book, which kept me hooked throughout.
I was looking forward to a proper build-up of all the characters in the story. But apart from the protagonists, other characters’ personalities felt a little dull. The characters felt like props to support the main characters, especially the females. Murakami’s character-building of females has been called flawed in many of his works, and honestly, I felt the same.
The author talked about music, famous bands, and their influences in the book, and as a person who loves music, I could instantly relate to it. In the story, one of the characters’ growing love for music resulted in a change of mindset, which felt so realistically true.
Kafka On The Shore is not an easy read; one needs to invest time and find a peaceful reading place to understand the story thoroughly. I would advise readers to avoid expecting logical explanations or a perfect conclusion from this book. The author has written the story in this way so the readers can interpret the profound meanings according to their introspective thoughts and experiences.
I suggest reading a few simple works by the author before starting this book to familiarize yourself with Murakami’s writing style.
The book faces appreciation as well as criticism from the audience. But the novel is great and has the power to impact the inner minds of the readers. There might be flaws here and there, but one must recognize the author’s extraordinary thought process and talent to deliver this amazing storyline.
Overall, it is a story worth reading. You should definitely give this book a try! After all, you will only know the value of something if and when you experience it, so read the book with patience, and it will give you a memorable experience.
This book includes a lot of themes that you can explore. I have selected a few major themes from this story to emphasize the messages Murakami was trying to convey to the audience.
1. Metaphysical Reality
Metaphysics or Metaphysical reality, means curating logic or explanations of abstract elements beyond the natural world. Murakami has often used this theme in the story, narrating characters and worlds that exist beyond physical reality.
He has interconnected the unrealistic imaginations of the subconscious mind with real-life experiences to confuse the readers’ minds and draw conclusions on their own.
Fate is another strong theme added to the story. The story starts with Kafka’s fate: killing his father and sleeping with his own mother and sister. Predestined things are beyond our control, and no one can stop or alter their fate is a message delivered throughout the story.
On the other hand, Nakata’s life changed due to many bizarre incidents. Murakami has highlighted the outcomes of fate in various aspects.
Memory plays a very important part in each character’s life in the story. Few are so engrossed in past memories that they fail to live their present lives; few wish to paint a picture with the help of their vivid memories; some have lost their memories due to accidents.
The author conveys that memories can trap us in grief or give us the happiness we desire.
Isolation is another essential aspect of the story. If you read the entire story, you will know how each character deals with loneliness. Isolation is buried deep within each character’s life; few have accepted their life of solitude, and few seek to remove themselves from their lonely life.
Isolation can deeply engulf us and lead to paths that can be risky, which, over time, we do not realize.
Once you read the entire story, you will know that melancholy is another emotion that is experienced by the characters. Each of them suffers from deep sorrow and is trying to overcome the issues in their own way.
Murakami has shown the readers the reality of life and how everyone has something to be sad about, but they mostly suffer in silence.
You all must be aware of the absurd writings of Murakami. Kafka On the Shore has the theme of absurdism, where many bizarre incidents are narrated with no logical explanations. But when you delve deeper, the meanings behind those instances can be easily found.
7. Magical Realism
In the story, Murakami narrates unexplainable and magical moments with a realistic tone. Magical realism is a central theme of the book. While reading, you can understand how the author has incorporated this theme deeply.
This book has an amazing storyline, and I enjoyed reading it. As an avid reader, you should definitely give this hyped book a try to see if it impacts you or not.
Murakami has been a renowned author for a long time, and this is one of his famous works, so grab this book now and delve into the world of magical realism without delay!
I hope you liked my review and it was helpful for you to decide if the book is worth investing in. If you have already read this book or are a Murakami fan, share your views with me. I will be delighted with them.