The narrator of this story, who we only ever see referred to as K, tells the story of his best friend Sumire, a rough 22-year-old girl with a passion for writing and reading. At the beginning of the story, Sumire falls in love with Miu, an elegant and sophisticated women 17 years older than she.
Meanwhile, K is in love with Sumire, and despite knowing nothing will come of it, he continues to answer her 3 a.m. phone calls. When Sumire leaves for an extended stay in Europe with Miu without telling him, K is not resentful. And when he receives yet another 3 a.m. phone call, this time from Miu asking him to come immediately to a small island in Greece because Sumire is in trouble, he does not hesitate.
This is my eighth Murakami novel, and while it’s not my favorite (Norwegian Wood still claims that spot), it comes in a close second. There are few prominent characters, but they’re all well put-together and entirely likable. The book is small (the paperback is 229 pages), but concise with a satisfying pace.
In the past I’ve enjoyed Murakami less than I could have because of how surreal his books can be, which is why I enjoyed Norwegian Wood so much. But in this one, the fantasy aspects don’t come in until the last third of the book, and are relatively subtle (at least compared to 1Q84 or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle). As a result, it was great reading for me.
One of the best of the year so far! Recommended for those who want to try something a little bit different, but don’t want to invest in a long read.