Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore Review

I’m a big Haruki Murakami fan, and I enjoyed this book.  It’s not where I would start if I were you and you’ve never read him before.  And it’s not his best novel, but it was still a good Murakami story with a heavy dose of the surreal that he’s known for.

I had a weird feeling reading this book.  It felt like a hodgepodge of other novels.

For at least the first third of the book, it reminded me of Stephen King’s Duma Key:  a man estranged from his wife goes to a secluded place to paint and meets an interesting neighbor who becomes intertwined in his life.

Then, the publishers, on Murakami’s website, remind you that this is supposed to be an ode to The Great Gatsby—I can see it, but the Gatsby stand-in here—Menshiki—is more dissimilar to Gatsby than similar.

And of course, there are the typical Murakami tropes: cooking, music, the (literal) underground.  The last part of the book was taking me back to my first Murakami experience: Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

Killing Commentadore was a little slow in parts, but I enjoyed it.  If I was giving a numerical score, I’d say it was a 7 out of 10.

There were two (rather minor) things I didn’t like about the book, though.

  1. The cover. Usually, I hate Murakami’s U.S. covers and I buy the UK edition (from Book Depository). However, I liked the U.S. cover better this time. The problem is the cover has almost nothing to do with the story.  Since that was the case, I would’ve much preferred the placeholder.
  2. At the end of the story, Murakami references the 2011 Fukushima earthquake. The problem is that his characters who are in Tokyo act like they didn’t feel a thing and the quake was in some far off place.  True, the epicenter was some distance from central Tokyo.  However, even in Tokyo, it was a major quake: train service stopped, masses of people had to walk home from their offices, bread shelves were bare for a couple of days.  I was living in Tokyo at the time.  So my question is where was Murakami during the quake?  Outside of Japan? Outside of Kanto (Tokyo area)?

Those two points and the slow parts make this novel not his best work.  If you’re a Murakami fan, however, I’m sure you picked it up already.  If not, wait for the paperback and read other Murakami books until then.