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I'd heard a buzz about this Japanese guy, Haruki Murakami, who writes these fantastic books and is a bit of an enigma. Such is the obsession with him displayed by his home country's fans, he fled Japan for 5 years to live as an unknown. I came across "After the Quake" in a charity shop and curiosity got the better of me, so here comes the review.
Various fictional peoples' lives have a chapter each dedicated to them and the chapters spotlight a small scene from that character's life after a big earthquake. It isn't a disaster survival type book, there's no scenes of dusty and blooded survivors crawling over wreckage and rubble for days to find lost loved ones.
Instead, it focuses on interpersonal relationships between the chapters' main characters as they try to get on with life amongst an odd collection of acquaintances, including a giant talking frog, called "Frog".
Mr Murakami doesn't really follow convention, so don't expect an easily defined plot like you would find in most paperback thrillers that have a word like "Codex" or "Genesis" in the title - it's simply not that type of story. Think of this book as more of a display of word craft - it's masterfully written and even though it's slightly odd in format, it reads like a dream.
By odd in format, I mean the lack of an easily identifiable plot - the chapters aren't linked by any literary thread other than the fact they're in the same book and that an earthquake has happened some time in the recent past. Don't let that put you off though, give it a try. He's more of a literature writer than a pulp fiction writer - there's food for thought here rather than a book where not much thought is required.
It's quite a short read, 6 chapters fitted into 132 pages. I thought this was just about the right length - any longer and I might have become disinterested by his unusual style compared to my more mainstream tastes. As it was, I enjoyed all 132 pages of it and wish that a piece of literature like this was on the curriculum when I was at school, as opposed to Shakespeare. I'll be very honest, I couldn't relate to a single thing in any of the Shakespeare books we read at school and lost interest quite swiftly. The difference with Murakami is that he's slap bang in the here and now, but the quality of writing spot on so that without realising it, my brain was really engaged and I'd guess that I engaged more with this book in two and a half hours than I did with Shakespeare over five years at high school.
An almost five but not quite four stars from me - four as it's the first book of his that I've read and I found the style too new for my tastes and haven't yet fully embraced the author. Put it this way though - I liked it enough to want to read more from the same author.