Twenty-two-year-old 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.
Surprised that she might, after all, be a lesbian, 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 about her.
Frustrated in his own love for Sumire, K consoles himself by having an affair with the mother of one of his pupils. Then a desperate Miu calls from a small Greek island and asks for his help, and he discovers that something very strange has happened to Sumire.
Genre: Fiction, Japanese
As my regular readers know, I am a huge Murakami fan. I love his works. Murakami has a way with words.. as a quote by Independent on Sunday says on the back of Sputnik Sweetheart;
"How does Murakami manage to make poetry while writing of contemporary life and emotions? I am weak-kneed with admiration"
Me too good fellow. Me too.
This novel was a lot different to what I expected from the blurb on the back. I had been putting off reading this Murakami for a while as I expected long telephone calls. I am not big fan of overuse of dialogue in novels, but besides the occasional call, the novel was narrated from K's point of view. He told Sumire's story, Miu's story and gave some background on his own. This resulted in three realistic and interesting characters.
Sumire is charming. She is an aspiring writer who loves nothing more than to immerse herself in novels or write everything that comes to her. She loves long conversations about profound topics and isn't concerned with money, fashion or appearance. All Sumire wants is to write a long novel that will be on par with the classics she reads. That is until she meets Miu and everything changes. Sumire falls secretly in love with her.
Miu is beautiful, wealthy and classy. She runs her own business importing French wine to Japan and organising concerts. To Sumire, she seems perfect. But Miu has a secret of her own. Something happened to her fourteen years ago which changed her life and turned her black hair, pure white.
K, the narrator is in love with Sumire but she cannot return his love. He is frustrated by this and reacts by sleeping with a variety of women. Despite her rejection, K will do anything for Sumire so when Miu calls from a tiny Greek island and tells him that Sumire has disappeared, he jumps on a plane and arrives in Greece in record time. But when he gets there he finds a mystery unlike anything he could ever imagine.
I loved this novel. Murakami's prose was wonderful.... flowing off the pages with beauty and grace. This novel was an absolute pleasure to read.
I enjoyed Sumire's conversations with K about life. They talked about the difference between signs and symbols, sexual desire, the sense of isolation people can feel even if surrounded by others, and how life events can suck out our souls and leave us as nothing but empty shells. Husks floating through the rest of our lives... depressing topic I know, but Murakami delivers it in such a way that although it is sadly pensive, it still a wonderful read.
"So that's how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that's stolen from us - that's snatched right out of our hands - even if we are left completely changed people with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to our allotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable emptiness."
The mystery in this novel was creepy... yet interesting. I love how subtle Japanese horror can be. It's psychological and relies on the reader to work it out... thoroughly creepy.
Sputnik Sweetheart is now one of my new favourite Murakami's. It is right up there with Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I highly recommend this book to all Murakami fans. I cannot wait to read my next Murakami!