Saturday, April 14, 2012

Review: Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

I finished Sputnik Sweetheart for a while now, so this review may seem a bit overdue... so please bear me with as I try to recall what I have to say about this Murakami book. *keke* >.<

After Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman fueled my interest on Murakami, I immediately bought the first HM I could get a hold of . And this turned out to be Sputnik Sweetheart.

Haruki Murakami, the internationally bestselling author of "Norwegian Wood" and "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle," plunges us into an urbane Japan of jazz bars, coffee shops, Jack Kerouac, and the Beatles to tell this story of a tangled triangle of uniquely unrequited loves. A college student, identified only as "K," falls in love with his classmate, Sumire. But devotion to an untidy writerly life precludes her from any personal commitments-until she meets Miu, an older and much more sophisticated businesswoman. When Sumire disappears from an island off the coast of Greece, "K" is solicited to join the search party and finds himself drawn back into her world and beset by ominous, haunting visions. A love story combined with a detective story, Sputnik Sweetheart ultimately lingers in the mind as a profound meditation on human longing. (via Goodreads)

Sputnik Sweetheart, to me, was a very emotional book. And since I've been an avid fan of gut-wrenching, butterfly-in-the-stomach-sending, and heart-throbbing books that put me in an emotional mess, naturally, I would be a fan of this one. I am a lover of books that explore the details of a hurting heart, and specifically describe the pain the characters were suffering from. Some would say that loving something with such intensity of negative emotions (hurt, pain, etc.) prove to be a little pessimistic/sadistic/sentimental or whatever, but I am a firm believer that it is when we experience these kinds of emotions that we bring out the rawness of our self - that part which let us feel more than ever. Books that convey these kinds of emotions tend to affect me more than the others and I love books that I feel very connected to. And this one? This book has all the connections I can muster.

This conveys the suffering of an unrequited love (loves, that is). The pain of being there - just there, for another. Knowing how much you love her/him while knowing full well that that love cannot be reciprocated, but still choosing to linger and support the other. Those were the times when this novel caught me. The way K, the male protagonist, conveyed his emotions in such simple yet meaningful words. I always read with my high lighters within reach, marking every passage I like (that's the beauty when you own the book you're reading, you're free to do anything to it like highlighting, writing in it's margins, underlining, etc.), and before I knew it, the book was yellow all over. I like Murakami's way of writing: how he put the punctuation in all the right places, how he uses these strange descriptions to convey what he wanted to say, and even how he capitalizes some of his statements. It's too perfect. Haha (ooops, fangirl talking). This book is swelling with quotable quotes that depict the rawness of human emotions.

One of the quotes that I love in this book, I even made a post about it. 

As to the characters, K is lined up to what I believe is the trademark Murakami protagonist: a music lover, and a book lover. He writes beautifully, and is able to describe what he's feeling in an excruciating manner that sometimes, I find my tears building up. And then there was Sumire. First off, I LOVE HER NAME. Well, basically, Sumire means 'violet' in Japanese. She's an aspiring writer, and obviously, she loves to read. She found this best friend figure with K, but then, without her knowing, K started to fall into her enigma. The problem is: Sumire,  who is not really sure with her sexual orientation, seemed to fall deeply in love with a woman named Miu who had a very curious past and whose hair have turned all white for some weird reason that you would discover if you read the book. K was Sumire's confidante, and so, he is torn with listening and understanding Sumire's emotions for Miu even though he himself have one for her. Thus, making the whole unrequited love thing more unbearable for him.

Reading Murakami has given me 3 impressions: emotional, vintage, and surreal. With a set of curious, and almost strange characters.... Murakami made the, what I think, one of his most emotionally vulnerable creations. And with the presence of vinyl records, bookstore, and jazzy cafes, one cannot really deny the almost too classic and dated setting of the book - which, I love by the way. But despite all of this, he still didn't lose the surreal element about his writing, on which he is widely known. Murakami's courage in taking on strange elements in his books, while taking the readers with him is one of the things I love about this man.  The back story of Miu, and what really happened to Sumire when she disappeared still posed question in my mind. The books gave an account of what happened with the said story, but they're not-so-satisfying as it made me still want further explanations. Somewhere behind those well spun words, is the question of whether they are just metaphorical representation of something -- of a better, solid narrative. Weeks and months after I first finished reading it, the riddle of whether these words mean something more is still lurched in my brain. It left me thinking. Until now, I didn't have an answer I'll be satisfied with so I guess this book won't leave me alone for a while.

I would go as far as say that Sputnik Sweetheart is hauntingly good (to my preference). I love Murakami's distinct element dancing in the thin border between reality and fantasy, and how he works out the premise of every single book he writes. Every ending of each chapter is gripping, that made it just a breeze to finish reading it. Though the ending was a little vague, this book still shoot straight to my 'Favorites' shelf. After two Murakami books, I don't think I'll be able to leave out his remaining books soon. I am now reading Norwegian Wood (which is taking more than its allotted time because of some reasons I can't quite point out), and I shall be posting a review of it in the next couple of days.

I want this cover! It's absolutely gorgeous! // Source

Fast Fact: Sputnik Sweetheart contains the story of "The Man-Eating Cats" that has been previously featured in "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman" collection of short stories.

Quotable Quote:
"In dreams  you don't need to make any distinction between things. Not at all. Boundaries don't exist. So in dreams there are hardly ever collisions. Even if there are, they don't hurt. Reality is different. Reality bites." ~ Sumire, Document 1


  1. Hi Riza, you wrote a very insightful review. I read the book yesterday and could not agree more with you regarding the 3 impressions: emotional, vintage, and surreal. Also the part about unrequited love is so true. That pain of longing and knowing it is all too far provides great depth to the characters.

  2. This is a great review of the book. I agree with you. I just finished it an hour ago and it is a hauntingly beautiful book. The way Murakami describes this feeling of love and lust gave me butterflies in my stomach.
    The ending was open which in one way is very frustrating and unsatisfying buy in another way is perfect. The thing with Murakami is, it is not possible to conclude many things about his books after reading them. They are just a flood of feelings, wise words and philosophic surrealism.
    And he has an amazing way of writing in a simple manner that still is poetic, philosophical and totally captivating. Amazing book.

  3. hi.. sorry for the late reply. wow, i'm surprised you're abale to find this review and this blog. why, thank you. I see that we have a very similar point of view in re this book .:)) hope I could read more of your thoughts regarding this book. :)

  4. thanks Pushkar! i agree with all of it. :) thanks for visiting my site!

  5. Hi. It's Ivan (I messaged you at goodreads). I've read your all your Murakami reviews. Sputnik Sweetheart is actually my first Murakami book.

    (I wrote a post about Murakami in a blog I just made, it would be awesome if you check it out)

  6. Hi Ivan! I'm afraid i didn't get your Goodreads message but thanks for tracking down my account. :)) And also, thanks for reading all my Murakami reviews. Wow. I used to think that no one really reads my insights but thank you for saying otherwise. Will definitely check out your review. Thanks for leaving a comment. :)


Thanks for dropping by! I'd love to hear from you -- so don't think twice, just comment below and let's talk! If you're feeling like it, you could also link up and I'll make sure to visit your site if you have one. Much love, ~ R. :)


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