This is a book review of The Wind Cave by Haruki Murakami. It’s an excerpt from his latest novel Killing Commendatore. No spoilers, so no worries.

I found this little gem by Haruki Murakami online thanks, yet again, to Facebook. The Wind Cave was published by The New Yorker just a day or two ago as a promo for Murakami’s upcoming novel Killing Commendatore. Usually I avoid reading fiction on the web. I much prefer the feel of paper passing between my fingers, the visual texture of words in print, the weight of a novel in my hands and the sense of accomplishment as I progress through the story, shifting the split in the spine from the front all the way to the back of the book. That said, I happily read the excerpt despite the discomfort of a backlit screen.

What is it about?

The Wind Cave is written in the first-person by an unnamed young man. It follows his thoughts and feelings as he reminisces about the loss of his younger sister, Komi.

Murakami’s Writing Style

I immediately recognised Murakami’s distinctive style. His prose is always clean, simple and pleasing to read, much like Japanese design. I also find a hint of melancholy and a tendency towards introspective thought in all his work. The way he writes his protagonists is always measured and his characters never seem to find themselves out of control despite their deep feelings. While the young man recounts some of his memories of his little sister, specifically the time when they visited a cave together, he recognises intense emotions like fear and grief. Yet the way he describes the anecdotes is without panic or bitterness. He comes across as calm, almost serene. Together with the young man, we can look back on his past and relive his acutely personal sense of loss, although somewhat muted by the passage of time.

Short Story Style

Through this extract we get to know a little about the protagonist – he dealt with his grief through art and subsequently comes to study it– and, by the end, I am ready to know more. I think this should be the aim of all good short stories. They give you a glimpse, just a peek through the keyhole into a narrative, then leave you wondering what happens next. Murakami’s experience and talent in this style clearly show through this selection. I may just have to put in an order for the full novel once it’s out. Although M.A. Orthofer’s review of the full novel would have me believe the ending is a little lackluster.

Death and Loss as a Trope

Through Murakami’s writing, I felt the coldness and finality of death. Komi’s passing comes as surprise to her brother, despite her years of struggle with a congenital heart problem. It reminded me that no matter how prepared we may think we are for the end of someone we love, the actual event is always a shock. Perhaps, although we know none of us can live forever, we never really accept that it will happen to anyone we know, let alone a family member, until it really does. Ah, Murakami has me all melancholy, too, now. He’s too good.

My Recommendation

Anyway, if you have a spare 15 minutes, want a nice little read and haven’t used up your monthly allowance of free articles, click through to this piece and enjoy.

4.5/5 stars only because I prefer paper

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