Published: 1992 (English 1998)
Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel
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.