South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami is a famous Japanese writer who had his books translated into 38 other different languages. Haruki Murakmi wrote this novel back in 1992. It was translated and released in English by Philip Gabriel in 2000. South of the Border, West of the Sun discusses the messed up life of a regular Japanese man.
The man in discussion is called Hajime. His first love was this crippled girl called Shimamoto. They were good friends till one had to move away and they grew apart. He never forgot his first love.
His second love was in high school with this conservative girl called Izumi. The smooth sailing relationship crashed when Hajime hurt the girl leaving her scarred for life.
His third love Yukiko, ended up being his wife. He was now a happily married man with two kids. At the age of 38, Shimamoto enters his life again. This time round, she is no more the sickly, disabled girl but an attractive, rich looking woman. She carries this mysterious aura around her. Hajime learns nothing of her except that she is now well to do whose baby died the previous year.
First love strikes the chord again. Despite having immense love for his wife and family, he starts yearning for Shimamoto’s presence. Shimamoto usually visits him abruptly and leaves with a note that reads ‘I cannot meet you for a while’. Her notes were ambiguous which made Hajime restless. Yukiko figures that he is meeting someone else. She gives him time and tells him to decide who he wants to be with. This leaves him shattered. He doesn’t want to leave Yukiko, he loves Shimamoto, he loved his family, he ‘didn’t know’ what he should do.
When Shimamoto finally returns to give him a gift, he decides to leave his entire family for her. The day they were suppose to “run away”, she disappears never to appear again. On the same week, he runs into Izumi who was “beyond recognition”. (This by the way is not the ending.)
Haruki Murakami is a great story teller. The people, the emotions, the locations, they were all believable. The characters were made to be ones that could be your neighbor, your friend, someone you definitely came across before. They were not out of the world, they were not exaggerated. The dialogues were the kind a regular man would say. Nothing too fancy or clichéd.
It was a simple man’s tale told in a simple way.
Note: If the review gave you the idea that it could be a romance novel, it is not.
Author: Haruki Murakami
Original language: Japanese
Publication date: 1992
Published in English : 1999