r/fantasy Bingo 2017 · Review

[Review] Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

kafka_on_the_shoreKafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel

Published by: Vintage International

Where I got the book: Public Library

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This book was my selection for the r/fantasy bingo 2016 challenge: B1 Magic Realism.

I’m honestly really conflicted about this book, my feeling and reaction to it, and how I chose to rate it.

This book is wonderfully Murakami, with talking cats and strange magic realism asking questions about consciousness, emptiness and what makes life worth living. I love Murakami’s writing style and fell deeply into this book very quickly. I didn’t even care about how the plot meandered and how the ending didn’t really resolve anything. None of that mattered due to how magically Murakami had woven the story, the characters and the setting together. This book would have easily been a four out of five stars read.

The sexism kinda ruined it for me though. Every single female character in the book is the same, beautiful and a blank canvas for the main character, Kafka, to project his sexual desire upon. He falls in love with the 15 year old memory of a 50 year old woman who’s technically his boss and then has a sexual relationship with her. There’s a dream rape sequence that you’re not sure whether it’s real or not due to how its written.

And I wanted to love this book so bad and I still do. I even managed to make it past the cat killing horror scene and keep reading. A beautifully written magic realism book with talking cats doesn’t excuse this characterization of women though. So I had to drop my rating down to three stars to reflect that.

I love Murakami though. And I’m planning on reading the rest of his work. I’m sure I’ll face this same question again in his books. They’re such beautiful writing and there’s some part of me that wants to understand why I could love something so problematic.

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