Showing posts from August, 2010

A Place You Can Figure Out If You Think About It Really, Really Hard

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is the second book I've read by Haruki Murakami, the first being Norwegian Wood. The two share many similarities in style (engaging descriptions of everyday events, mellifluous prose) and characters (easy-going protagonists called Toru with unstable lovers, secondary characters who have only a tangential relationship to the story but provide plenty of colour). But where Norwegian Wood is restrained and cohesive, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is big, messy and very surreal.

Toru Okada's story starts mundanely as he looks for a missing cat, which triggers a succession of loosely-connected meetings with curious people. The plot is almost as hard to summarise as it is to understand, but it centres on the fate of Toru's wife Kumiko and her brother, mixed in with grim tales from Japan's troubled history that seem to echo in the present. Toru meanwhile takes the time for some deep soul-searching and his aimless wanderings bag him a peculiar job. Eventu…

Flashman's last hurrah

If you're familiar with the Flashman books you won't need a review of Flashman on the March, just a note that this time our hero is in Abyssinia.

If you're unfamiliar with the Flashman books this is maybe not the place to start, as it's the last in the series. Having said that, like all the books it is a fully self-contained story so you could start here if you really wanted to. I started with the fifth in the series, Flashman in the Great Game, and it didn't do me any harm. The order of events in Flashman's life is not the same as the order in which the books were written anyway. But if in doubt, it's worth starting with the first, if only to find out how Flashman's illustrious military career began.

Flashman is the bully from the Victorian novel Tom Brown's Schooldays, and Fraser's conceit is to imagine what happened to him after he was kicked out of school for drunkenness. It's not necessary to have read Tom Brown to follow the Flashman …