Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
High marks for leaving this reader baffled.
Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
Of the many books I have come to learn to love to hate this one takes me to the highest level of that dichotomy.
This book has a lot going for it and just as much going against it and many times the things that make it so frustrating are the very same things that make it so good.
The writer chose a style that may have deliberately been designed to do much of this or may have just naturally settled into it. Now see how frustrating this is getting.
It's a first person story that seems to favor telling. Both of those limit the author quite a bit unless they are quite clever. And there is no doubt in my mind that Haruki Murakami is quite clever when it comes to style but there is enough ambiquity in this psychological thriller to create a weariness about which parts are planned and which parts just worked out that way because of style choices.
That alone could say much about the author though it also might say much about the confusion of the reader at this point.
The story has three central characters; the narrator who is in love with one of the other central characters and then that character who in turn is in love with the third character. It's a love triangle that has the added twist that the second love is a lesbian love and possibly unrequited love. The first love is also unrequited. But the confusing part about these loves is that all the characters sound the same and are only differentiated by what the narrator tells us about each character including himself. Because the reader has been pushed back to a distance by the narrative style there is really no connection to the characters. But this is a story about disaffected characters who all seem to isolate themselves from others and have issues with expressing their desires which is why they sound the same.
In either a twisted way or a clever way the writing style reinforces the disaffection by creating that mood with the reader. The reader doesn't necessarilty empathize but rather is drawn into the mood of the characters by the selected mode of writing. As the reader is drawn deeper into the story and the suspenseful events of the story the distance becomes greater because we have the characters questioning the reality of thier own lives until one of them vanishes as if up in smoke.
In the end the reader is left with a conundrum because the reader must decide what is reality based on the outcome which reads, at best, as a puzzle that we see from the outside with very little involvement with the characters either at the end or in the whole of the story.
At some point the reader could easily draw some wrong conclusions but never quite be sure if they are wrong because of the writing style or wrong because that's how the writing style was used to steer us; in which case then perhaps the conclusions are correct.
Just the fact that the three characters read the same in many ways could make one wonder if these three are not all the same person and their interrelationship and disaffection through unrequited love is the strand that is trying to hold three parts of the same person together after some sort of fracture. Because throughout; the three are never together at any time, and when two are together there are few others around of consequence to validate the existence of each being separate from the other. And that the narrator eventually feels drawn somehow to the third person upon meeting her despite his obsession with the other woman, would seem to support this theory.
I would recommend this to anyone who loves a great seemingly unsolvable puzzle. And a story where the parts are revealed to the reader as they are revealed to the characters with the same hope of resolution to both.
I give this book high marks for its cleverness; despite the possibility it might not all have been planned.
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