‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’ by Haruki Murakami

Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Short Stories, Fiction
First Published: 2006 (in English)
Pages: 436

A collection of short stories about everything from animated cows and a criminal monkey to a romantic exile in Greece and a chance reunion in Italy. 

Everyone in my creative writing class at university was constantly talking about how brilliant Haruki Murakami is. Having never read any Murakami before, I decided to try his collection of short stories ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.’ Initially, I found the stories hard to engage with, as I felt that they lacked a plot or even a purpose for reading them. As I reached the end of each story I was left thinking, ‘what was the point in that?’ as there was no moral conclusion or even an explanation of the events.

Admittedly, some of the stories were enjoyable, my favourite being ‘Chance Traveller,’ in which the narrator and his friend discuss coincidental encounters they have had, which leads to a family reunion. This tale was more uplifting and had a sense of purpose and closure at the end, which I felt was lacking in some of the other tales. Other stories that I enjoyed include, ‘The Mirror,’ which captures a ghostly experience in an abandoned school, ‘A Perfect Day For Kangaroos,’ which literally discusses what is said in the title, but it makes a pleasant read, and ‘The Ice Man,’ whose mythic elements I associated with Angela Carter’s collection, ‘The Bloody Chamber.’

I found that the stories towards the end of the book were much better than the first ones, and were much more complete in their structure. However, from my experience of reading Murakami, I wouldn’t feel compelled to read another one of his books, which I was disappointed about as everyone had recommended him so highly. I know that there are plenty of Murakami fans out there who love his work, but I’m afraid I just didn’t quite ‘click’ or understand the appeal of it.

Favourite quote: ‘What I saw wasn’t a ghost. It was simply – myself. I can never forget how terrified I was that night, and whenever I remember it, this thought always springs to mind: that the most frightening thing in the world is our own self. What do you think?’

Rating: 5/10

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4 thoughts on “‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’ by Haruki Murakami

  1. Jay says:

    Hi Hannah,
    I just started the last story in this collection over my morning coffee today but had to put it down to get to work on time (how inconsiderate of my employers!). I hope to write a detailed post about it soon. (I wrote about the title story long ago at http://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/blind-willow-sleeping-woman-by-haruki-murakami/

    I agree some of the stories seem to be “about nothing” but even in most of those I was still able to enjoy the unique tone of his writing.

    Of his novels, I’ve only read the recent “1Q84,” which I also liked, even though it was definitely “out there” in plot and action. I recently bought and downloaded his “Norwegian Wood” which seems universally praised but haven’t started it yet.

    -Jay

    • Hannah Ackroyd says:

      Haha I know how you feel! I work in a bookshop so after my breaks I am frequently drawn away from a key moment in the plot or the last few pages of a book!
      It’s true that the are well written, I guess it is hard to judge the level of writing though since they are translated but some of the phrases were wonderful.
      Someone suggested ‘Underground’ by Murakami, as it is based on true events, and it sound much more like something I would read. Maybe I will have to read more of his works to really ‘get’ it. ‘Norwegian Wood’ was another one I was considering so you’ll have to let me know what you think!

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