Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Colourless-Tsukuru-Tazaki-2014I received this book from Randomhouse SA for review consideration.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is my first read by Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, even though I own some of his other books.  I’ve read some spoiler free reviews of this book prior to picking it up myself and have been told that for someone new to Murakami’s work, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is a good place to start. Not having read any of his other work, I can’t yet agree on that, but I will admit that this was a pleasant read.

Tsukuru Tazaki was in a tight-knit group of friends in high school. Two girls and three boys.  Interestingly all their names, except Tsukuru’s had the meaning of colour – blue, red, white and black. Tsukuru was “colourless” and this had a deeper meaning for Tsukuru. He felt he was empty, boring with no unique personality.  “I have no sense of self. I have no personality, no brilliant color. I have nothing to offer. That’s always been my problem. I feel like an empty vessel. I have a shape, I guess, as a container, but there’s nothing inside.”

His name meant “to build” and that’s exactly what he goes out to do. He has always been fascinated with train stations and he ended up moving to Tokyo to study as an engineer. In his second year of university, his friends abandoned him and cut off all ties. Tsukuru, although devastated, felt that the person he is had something to do with it. What follows thereafter is Tsukuru falling into a deep depression that turned him suicidal. This experience affects his future ability to develop meaningful friendships and relationships.

Years later he meets a woman, called Sara, who he has a relationship with. However, she feels that until he has dealt with what happened in the past, he can never really move on. She feels that he just found a way to move past the hurt and convinces him to look up his friends and seek the answers he had been looking for, for 16 years (“You can hide memories, but you can’t erase the history that produced them”).

Of course, the truth he eventually finds out is shocking, but he is able to forgive and learn to deal with what happened. In this book we read about Tsukuru’s growth from a teenager to a young man and the impact of loss and betrayal on a person’s life. In some way, at the end of the novel, he does take his first real step to moving on. What I appreciated most about this novel is the writing. The prose is beautiful, especially since it’s a translated novel. I loved the philosophical descriptions in the novel, but there is also the subtle magical realism and supernatural elements, yet this novel feels real. I was a bit confused at the ending and felt a little disappointed that I didn’t get to learn what happens with Tsukuru and Sara. I still enjoyed the book and liked it enough that I’m convinced I should read my other Murakami books I own. I would most definitely recommend this book if you haven’t read Murakami yet and I do think that if you’re looking to read more diversely, this one is a good one to try.

inside cover

Another reason I loved the book is the copy I own. I like the cover, but I’m tempted to display the book on my bookshelf without the backcover, because the hardback is a beautiful black book covered in circles of red, black, white and blue (which of course resembles his 4 friends!)

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Images sources:  book cover and inside cover

  • Amy Sachs

    I loved this book so much. It opened me up to the rest of the world of Murakami, and your edition is SO pretty! I love mine too, it’s a train station map done in blue, black, and red!

  • Stephanie

    This is the first review I’ve read of the book that has really made me want to pick it up. Thanks!

  • Emma @ Words And Peace

    glad you discovered Murakami! I am a total fan of his. I loved a lot this one, by the way, I think the American cover is even better, have a look at my review to see it: http://wordsandpeace.com/2014/08/25/book-review-colorless-tsukuru-tazaki-and-his-years-of-pilgrimage/ 1Q84 remains my favorite of his. And in a couple of weeks The Strange Library will be published. 2 Murakamis in the same year!!

  • Bookheathen

    This book is sitting on my “to read” shelf (I have the same hardback
    edition – does yours have the blue and red circular stickers inside?).
    As a fan of Murakami (especially Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore),
    I’m pleased to read a positive review after one or two slightly
    negative ones.

    • Yes I also have the blue and red stickers inside with some more stickers! It’s cute. This was my first Murakami, so I don’t have the knowledge of the other books to compare it with. I enjoyed the read and I have read that some of his other fiction are really good, but I’ll have to read it to agree. For now, I like what I read from Murakami. I have been a little disappointed with the ending, because sometimes I like my endings tied up nicely, but the read was so enjoyable that I’m overlooking that completely.

  • Charlie (The Worm Hole)

    I haven’t read Murakami yet (banking on Norwegian Wood sometime) but the book sounds great. It is interesting to see a hardback coloured like that, so often they’re just plain.

    • It’s a very beautiful book without the back cover. Norwegian Wood is the one of his other novels that I want to read!

  • I loved this book! Though I’ve heard from some Murakami lovers that it’s quite similar to his other books. It was my first Murakami book though, and now I’m definitely looking forward to reading more!

    • My first Murakami too and I’m also looking forward to reading more! I’m thinking Norwegian Wood…

  • I’ve read a couple of Murakami books but not this one. I love the cover too! We seem to have a different one in the US.

  • I do want to read this book, mostly because every review I’ve read has raved about the cover (no matter which country/version they were reading). Of course it helps that everyone liked the story itself as well.

  • I agree with you about Sara and Tsukuru at the end – that drove me crazy! Also – my first Murakami was 1Q84…a chunkster, but I loved it! Colorless was my second one and I actually didn’t really like it. So, I recommend trying 1Q84 🙂

  • Ciska van der Lans

    I read 1Q84 by Murakami and loved it. The other half read it last year too and now he wants more work by Murakami so I will probably end up reading more books.

  • This sounds great! I’ve only read After Dark by Murakami, which had this very pleasant hypnotic quality about it. It also had these wonderfully subtle supernatural elements, and I’d love to see how he uses that in this novel.