Chances are you might have heard of Haruki Muramaki by now. If you read tons of literature, you probably know that he’s pretty well regarded his home county of Japan. Many of us bookstore dwellers have likely seen the tome called 1Q84 sitting on featured shelves a few years back; either the thousand page copy or the one split into three smaller paperbacks. Regardless if you’ve read the his work or not, most of his readers know that he is notorious for recycling themes in his novels, so much so that it’s become a joke and some readers play Murakami bingo to see how many of his common themes he can fit in one novel. Murakami’s newest endeavor is no different. A mishmash of past ideas, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is Murakami’s contribution to 2014 literature.
Murakami’s newest novel starts off as titular character Tsukuru Tazaki is teetering on the edge of self destruction. Having been forcefully abandoned by his four best friends for no apparent reason, Tsukuru spends nearly ten months convincing himself that death might be much easier than life. Flash forward to the future and we meet the 36 year old version of Tsukuru; older, less depressed, but still without friends. He’s taking a lovely girl named Sara out to dinner, hopes in the back of his head that they’ll end up in a bed somewhere at the end of the night. Tsukuru begins chatting with her over dinner and explains this misfortune of his youth where his four best friends thrust him out of their community circle, refusing to speak to him and never giving him a reason. Sara is genuinely baffled about this and demands that he figure it out. With her help, Tsukuru finds out where his four old best friends are residing and begins another stage in his years of pilgrimage to find out once and for all what caused that horrific time in his life.
Colorless is Murakami’s first novel since his mammoth 1Q84 in 2011. Readers back then weren’t all that thrilled with 1Q84 because of it’s length and lack of necessary editing. Nonetheless those critics shouldn’t have much to complain about with Colorless since its in the realm of 400 pages and very easily consumable. As per most of Murakami’s writing, a lot of the familiar themes are back, although you won’t find a cat in this book. The story is essentially about a group of friends that form, end up very close to each other during high school, but then lose touch. Tsukuru, the main character, is the one that struggles with the loss of friendship and goes on a quest to find out why he lost his four best friends. While the mystery behind the loss of friendship is fantastic, a good amount of the rest of the plot isn’t that great. Sara, girlfriend of Tsukuru, is the one that suggests he figure this mystery out. When she brings it up to him, she’s really not asking him to, but rather saying that he must do this, making it far too easy for him to just decide on whether or not he should do it. Also certain interludes during the course of the book don’t make sense. During Tsukuru’s first year of college he meets another student named Haida who will go on to be a short term best friend. Haida tells Tsukuru some story about his father and how he meandered in life, with no clear purpose and stumbled upon a mysterious person who held a death token. While the story itself was interesting (this was actually published in Slate, separately), it really holds no basis or connection with the rest of the story. These things don’t ruin the story, but rather bog down the main plot’s progress.
The novel does have a lot of great themes however that make up for any minor flaws. Tsukuru labels himself as colorless early on in his life, both because his name has no color meaning and because he doesn’t think he has a colorful personality. Being part of that group of five people, he always thought of them as such colorful, vibrant people and himself as the dull, boring Tsukuru. The other really great point of the book is the reconciliation of past mistakes. This book might work better with an older audience because a good bit of the story has to do with Tsukuru and his friends reconciling past mistakes that they’ve made. It points out that even though those mistakes were made, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be fixed. The point is to attempt to fix them, not to leave them fester for years and years. Even though sixteen years past from the time the group broke it off with Tsukuru until the present part of the novel, the story shows us that it’s still important to hold on to those initial friendships you made.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki probably won’t make it very high on the list of everyone’s favorite Murakami novels, but it surely is a great novel in it’s own right. It tells a story that has mystery, but also one that has important themes and lessons. The mystery of the story is one that will keep the reader engaged completely, while the crispness of the rest of the story just seems to wash over you. It’s a rather simple read, something one could read in a few sittings, but undeniably one completely great novel that middle aged adults should read. It’s the hope that keeps our wishes alive.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 – While Murakami’s latest published work might not be a favorite among his legion of loyal readers, it’s sure to strike a chord with many of the people who will undoubtedly read this novel. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki teaches us a few great lessons, all while having us wrapped inside a fascinating mystery that’s sure to keep the readers flipping page after page.
Colorless is available for purchase here
However you might want to spring for the UK version available here which has a pack of stickers you can apply to the books jacket.