Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Sumire is in love with a woman seventeen years her senior. But whereas Miu is glamorous and successful, Sumire is an aspiring writer who dresses in an oversized second-hand coat and heavy boots like a character in a Kerouac novel.

Sumire spends hours on the phone talking to her best friend K about the big questions in life: what is sexual desire, and should she ever tell Miu how she feels for her? Meanwhile K wonders whether he should confess his own unrequited love for Sumire.

Then, a desperate Miu calls from a small Greek island: Sumire has mysteriously vanished…

I recently went to Tenerife for two weeks with my best friend Holly, and the hotel we stayed at had a communal bookcase full of books, and as I have always wanted to read Murakami, I picked up Sputnik Sweetheart. It was quite a quick read and an enjoyable one.

I haven’t read a lot of translated fiction, but I find that often you can detect when a text has been translated, as it doesn’t flow the same way as it would in it’s original language. However, with that being said I did not detect this problem in this book. I found Murakami’s writing style to lend itself well to the English language, and there were some beautifully written passages and descriptions that felt very vivid and emotive.

“I dream. Sometimes I think that’s the only right thing to do. To dream, to live in the world of dreams. But it doesn’t last forever. Wakefulness always comes to take me back.” 

“Maybe in some distant place, everything is already, quietly, lost. Or at least there exists a silent place where everything can disappear. Or at least there exists a silent place where everything can disappear, melting together in a single overlapping figure. And as we live our lives we discover—drawing toward us the thin threads attached to each—what has been lost.” 

Beautiful, right? I found that this book was not massively plot driven, but instead used a basic plot outline (Sumire falling in love and then disappearing) to address some deeper themes, such as unrequited love, past traumas and sexuality.

This book follows Sumire, and her love for Miu, however is interestingly not told from either of their perspectives. It is told from Sumire’s best friend’s perspective. What I found interesting about this was that he is male, and this provides an interesting narration, as he is observing the feelings of women and the interactions of women from the outside, while also having feelings for Sumire. It adds another layer to the story and a more honest look of the characters in my opinion.

My only gripe with this book is that the ending is quite abrupt. There were questions and mysteries and ends that didn’t have any resolution and were not tied off. I am not by any means saying that a book needs to have a concrete ending, but in this instance the ending felt rushed. Everything was well paced until the last chapter, and you are left with little explanation of what you have just read.

However, despite this I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it. I am definitely going to be looking into more of Murakami’s work in the future.


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