Though I expected to like the book much more than I did, the book’s puzzles gave rise to an especially interesting discussion. Sputnik Sweetheart tells an unusual tale and, as Roger’s very thorough introduction explained, the author leaves a lot to the reader to work out on his own. When the story suddenly shifts from the normal to the bizarre, Murakami refuses to help the reader decide what is real and what is not. What struck me about our discussion is that everyone seemed to draw the line between the real and unreal in a different place.
We begin with a fairly normal plot; a love triangle. A young schoolteacher, known only as K, is in love with Sumire, a self-obsessed aspiring writer, while Sumire is in love with Miu, a Korean businesswoman. When Sumire disappears from one moment to the next, strange tales of other-worldly experiences are told about each of the characters. What is the reader to believe? All of us felt the book left us with more questions than answers, but as you can see from the points, most of us were happy with that.
More than a few in the Book Circle had never heard of Haruki Murakami, though he is one of the top-selling authors in the world, which surprised us. There seemed to be differences of opinion on the quality of the translation, but we agreed it was a well written novel, beautifully atmospheric in parts. It begins and ends in Japan with a Greek sojourn in the middle, and compared to his other novels, blissfully brief. There are certainly a few of us curious enough to try another few ‘inches’ of his prose.
Points: 8.5 – 8.5 – 8.5 – 8 – 8 – 8 – 8 – 8 – 8 – 8 – 7.5 – 7 – 7 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 2
Second Circle – reading list