Book review: South of the Border, West of the Sun

South of the Border, West of the Sun- Haruki Murakami

I know what you're all thinking, so it doesn't need to be said. We'll just take it as a given. Still, including the as yet unreleased English issue of his latest novel, I only have five more Murakami books to read. So we'll be out of this Japanese deja vu soon, I swear!
Anyway, South of the Border, West of the Sun is not a book that was particularly on my radar. It was just another Murakami novel to read. Turns out, it's my favourite ever of his. I know I say this every time, but this genuinely is my favourite and I can't see another overtaking.

South of the Border, West of the Sun tells the story of Hajime, a man who grows up in the Tokyo suburbs with his friend, Shimamoto. When Hajime moves to a different town, he and Shimamoto lose touch, and he grows up thinking of her all the while. In the meantime, he dates women and eventually marries, but has an irrepressible urge to remain unfaithful to each of his partners. Although this destroys his relationships, he continues to walk down his path of self-destruction until, by a series of consequences, Shimamoto walks back into his life. What follows is a man torn between his past and his future, trying to make the right decision in a world that seems to be moving on without him. 
There are two main themes in this novel: The passage of time and the monotony of life. In some ways, it reminded me very much of The Great Gatsby: Here is a man pining after "the girl who got away", and very aware of the fact that time moves on no matter what you do to alter the fact. 

I was completely drawn into the story, absolutely desperate to know what happened next. I couldn't read it fast enough and, although there was an all-encompassing sense of doom building with each chapter, I just had to know what lay in store for Hajime. By the end of the novel I was somewhat disillusioned. I was expecting some big flourish, a tragedy, a continuing of the repeated notion of "star crossed lovers". What I got was an ending that was rather... boring. However, I do think this was necessary. Hajime's life is one of comfortable monotony and predictibility. Why would the ending of the novel be any different? This is real life, not a fantasy, and it seems that Murakami was steering well clear of romantic sensationalism.
Although it pains me to admit this, I think I was so drawn into this story because I could relate to Hajime on more levels than I care to confess. He doesn't mean to hurt anybody. He doesn't want to do it and yet, somehow, he always ends up doing exactly that. What's more, he knows he's going to hurt people in the future, yet is powerless to stop it. There is no reasoning for what he's doing, he doesn't know why he does it, he just... does. I'm pretty sure everybody can relate to that on some level. We've all made similar mistakes in the past, whether literal or symbolic. 

Without a doubt, this is my favourite of Murakami's that I've read so far. It's a completely straight novel, with no surrealism or unusual details whatsoever (unless you include the multiple women with limps that Hajime meets), but it feels true. It's real. This is what real life is about. It might not be romantic, it might not be spectacular, but it's real. Deal with it. 

Affiliate link has been used in this post


  1. No surrealism at all? Not even one talking cat? Tell me there's some mention of beautiful ears! ;-)

    1. No talking cats and not even any ears! Crazy!


I read all comments and appreciate every single one, even if I can't always reply. If you have a question or need a reply, feel free to tweet me @BeckyBedbug- I always reply to tweets!

Blog Design by Get Polished | Copyright Becky Craggs 2017