South of the Border, West of the Sun

At the urging of many of my literary friends, I finally got around to reading Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore a few months ago. I'd come across a few Murakami quotes that really got to me so I imagined that I would find something to cherish in his most famed novel - and I definitely did. I highly recommend reading Kafka, but I recently picked up South of the Border, West of the Sun and I'm not sure if I'd place this before or after Murakami's other work.

South of the Border, West of the Sun is a love story, though untraditional, dark, and maybe even naive in its origins. Hajime long imagined that his childhood friend Shimamoto, the only other only child he had ever met at the time, was his true love. Though they parted ways come junior-high, he still thought of her often through various romantic relationships and even during his marriage. When Shimamoto appears in Hajime's successful and secure life, he can't help but question how content he thought he felt, who he should spend his future with, and what sacrifices he should, or even could, make for love. This novel is not a touching and romantic love story, but rather a realistic look at what happens when we hold on to childhood fantasies, when we question everything we thought we knew, when people from the past haunt our present.

I don't have too much more to say by way of synopsis except that I highly recommend you read this one for yourself. It has been described as one of Murakami's most haunting works and I would definitely agree it is such. Though not a necessarily dark novel, there is less levity in this work than Kafka and a bit more of the grittiness of reality that we don't often like to face or admit to. And while the characters maybe be labeled as romantics, the novel as a whole is far from your typical romance. Still South of the Border abounds in picturesque imagery with a hint of mystery that makes the novel easy and enjoyable to devour. At just over 200 pages, it's a relatively quick read and quite the page turner, though it is also full of the substance, intelligence, and wisdom readers have come to expect from Murakami.

Even if you're not in the mood to confront the sometimes fatalistic realities of love, I highly recommend any of Murakami's works. Though this and Kafka on the Shore are among my favorite books of any genre by any author, I've yet to meet a single piece of fiction from Murakami that I haven't loved.


  1. Murakami is great! I love your Christmas photos too!

  2. I've read individual stories (and essays, particularly about writing and running) of his that I thought were brilliant, but then I couldn't make it through Norwegian Wood.

  3. Interesting.. I haven't actually read any of his essays or short fiction, though I've recently really come to love exploring the essays of my favorite authors. I'm currently working on Norwegian Wood and thoroughly enjoying it, though it reads a bit differently than most of his other fiction to me - a bit more dense from the get-go which makes it harder to get into I guess.

  4. i've never heard of this book! i'll definitely look into picking it up. i love a good read! xo

  5. I love Muarkami's work, but haven't read this one yet - will I ever get to read all the books on my (ever growing) list!!!!

    Happy New Year Laura.


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