After reading most all of Murakami’s books, it has become apparent that he follows a formula that doesn’t stray from the usual too often. He deals mostly with coming of age stories, the journey from adolescence to adulthood in all its awkwardness, from first loves and heartbreaks to trying to find your place in the world. But although it tends to be much more of the same you always find yourself cheering for the protagonist every step of the way. I find this tends to come from how relatable and normal his characters tend to be (even if most reading this review are not Japanese youth), You will always find yourself in the story feeling those same awkward emotions that to most people will be familiar.
In Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage , this formula is much the same but instead of the reader following the the protagonist on his journey through youth, we find ourselves in the shoes of 36 year old Tsukuru Tazaki, a train station engineer in Tokyo, who is still haunted by events of his former years. At age 20, Tsukuru was kicked out of a group, one that he had thought to be an unbreakable bond between five friends, 3 boys and 2 girls. Each member, bar himself, had colourful names: Red, Blue, White and black. This represents how he has always thought of himself, as someone with no special features, not ugly but not handsome, not dumb but in no means exceptionally smart and so on. As such he goes through the rest of his life believing that his mediocrity is the reason he was removed from the group.
His melancholic life set to the tune of ‘Le Mal Du Pays’ by Liszt (a classical song referenced multiple times throughout the book, and a tell tale sign you are reading a Murakami novel) changes when he meets a girl who encourages him to find closure and discover why he was removed from the group before she will continue to be intimate with him. As such for the first time since the events 16 years earlier, Tsukuru makes an effort to find out what happened, a journey that sends him back to his hometown and even across the world, where he finds all is not as it seemed, and that maybe there was more to his abandonment than previously assumed.
For first time Murakami readers you may find many loose ends that are not resolved, but that is much to the charm of his books, and if you decide to go back to other novels such as his classics IQ84 and Norwegian Wood this is something you will learn to appreciate in his writing. This is one of my favourite Murakami books to date, and shows that even at age 65, he can still take the mundane everyday life and make it seem magical.