South of the Border, West of the Sun – Haruki Murakami


Pages: 192

Published: 1992 (English 1998)

Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel

Challenges: Lost in Translation, Orbis Terrarum, Compass Challenge, Support your local library and Around the World in 100 books

Rating: 4.5/5

In this short, beautifully written novel, Hajime narrates the story of the defining portion of his life, from his childhood through to his late 30’s.

As an only child in post war Japan, Hajime feels alienated as if he is the only one without brothers and sisters. He admits to having an inferiority complex about it. He knows only one other only child, his friend Shimamoto. They form a strong bond and spend hours together talking and listening to her fathers record collection. He feels she is the only person who really understands him and at 12 years old he thinks he may even love her.

But his family moves and they grow apart. Hajime drifts through his 20’s, often thinking of Shimamoto but never seeing her again. He eventually marries a woman he loves and they have two daughters and are happy.

Then one day, out of the blue, Shimamoto enters his world again under mysterious circumstances and turns everything upside down. What will Hajime do, will he give up everything he has on the strength of his childhood memories or will he accept that what he and Shimamoto had belonged to a different time and place and leave it there.

This is the first book by Murakami I have read and I agree with descriptions of his writing as being poetic. It was very hard to put down. This narrator was honest, admitted his own flaws and ordinariness yet I really cared about what happened to him. I would have like to have found out more about Shimamoto but can see that what was left unanswered added to her appeal.

A captivating read – I would like to read more books by this author.

10 responses to “South of the Border, West of the Sun – Haruki Murakami

  1. I haven’t read anything by this author but have heard good things. This one sounds interesting, and I’ll have to keep this one in mind when my tower of books to read is tamed a bit. I authors with a poetic writing style. Thanks for the great review.


  2. Thanks Anna – I like poetic writing as well. I came away from this one feeling like I’d been part of the experience. I will look out for your thoughts on this author when your tower is smaller 0:)

  3. I discovered Murakami only a couple of years ago, and I’ve now read a number of his novels, although not this one as yet. The mysterious and unexplained play a large role in much of his work, so it’s not surprising that there are elements of it here. I’ll have to look for this one. If you liked this, you would probably like Kafka on the Shore in particular; it’s my favorite of all his books I’ve read so far. Thanks for posting about this one.

  4. Thanks Hedgie and for the recommendation. I will look out for this one – have heard only good things about this author and definitely want to read more of him. You have prompted me to hop over to Orbis Terrarum and actually sign up for this challenge…

  5. I read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and was immediately enamored. I’m putting this on my wishlist too! I love finding a “new” writer and read everything they’ve written. Thanks for your review!

    /Eva – fellow OT-er

  6. Thanks Eva – I have heard of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle so will add this to my list as well. It’s exciting discovering a new author that you really like isn’t it!

  7. Well, I haven’t read ANYTHING by this author, but keep seeing great reviews of his work. Obviously, I need to get busy!

  8. Thanks for stopping by Elizabeth – I will be interested to see what you think if you do read any of his books..

  9. Pingback: Orbis Terrarum Challenge – Completed! « A Book Sanctuary

  10. Pingback: Japanese Literature Challenge 3 – Completed! « A Book Sanctuary

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