Thursday, April 15, 2010

'The Wind-up Bird Chronicle' Discussion - Book Two (JLit Read-along)

Japanese Literature Read-along

Welcome to the discussion of Book Two, the second part of our 3-month read-along, of Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Book Two: Bird as Profit (July to October 1984) takes us up to page 338 in the Vintage trade paperback, both the US and UK editions. For more information on the book editions, and schedule, please visit the Japanese Literature Read-along page. For more information about the book, please refer to The Wind-up Bird Chronicle - Book One Discussion post.

Since I posted the summary and basic information about the book last month, let's just jump to the discussion. The questions below are simply a guide to start the conversation. Please feel free to discuss any of the questions below that interest you, or bring up any other questions or comments that you have about Book Two, or the story so far. Anyone is welcome to join in the discussion whether they're reading along, or have read the book previously. However, if you have already read the entire book, please be mindful of any participants that have not yet read Book Three. On the other hand, for anyone who has not yet read to the end of Book Two, please be aware that the questions and comments may contain spoilers.

Discussion Questions

What did you think of Book Two? Were you surprised by anything that happened?
Do you have any favourite passages, or scenes, from Book Two? 

What do you think caused the mark on Toru's face?
What did you think of Kumiko's letter? Toru's experience in the well? Creta Kano's story?

How do you feel about how Book Two ended? Murakami originally intended for the story to end with Book Two. It was only as a response to the complaints of fans that the book was not properly finished, that he wrote Book Three. How would you feel if the story stopped here?

Where do you think the story will go from here? What would you like to see happen in Book Three?

Plus a few questions taken and adapted from the Random House Reading Guide.

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle deals with other worlds or realities. This is traditionally seen as the domain of fantasy and fairy tale, but also of horror. Do you feel there is a distinct division between these categories? What other genres could The Wind-up Bird Chronicle fit into?

Toru is trying to decide what to do with his life after quitting his job, and is being constantly challenged as he encounters new people on his journey. What effect does this have on the main character? How far do you consider this story to be one of self-discovery?

Many of the twists and turns of the storyline surprise the protagonist, and at times his journey seems to have no clear purpose. To what extent are the various characters in control of the events that involve them? Such as Toru’s consciousness being accessed by Creta Kano. Toru’s access to the mysterious hotel is restricted. What effect does this partial revelation have on him and on the reader?

Only a few characters are aware of the wind-up bird in Murakami’s novel, and Toru’s first quest is a search for a missing cat. What role do animals play in the novel? Do you think they are symbolic?

(Your question here...)

The following have shared their thoughts on The Wind-up Bird Chronicle:
We Be Reading (Book One)
We Be Reading (Book Two)
Polishing Mud Balls (Book One)
Dolce Bellezza (review)
su[shu] (review)
If you have posted about Book Two on your own blog, or a spoiler-free review of the book as a whole, please leave a link in the comments and I'll update this post so that we can all visit.

Also, just a reminder that we'll begin discussing Book Three of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle on May 15th.  Book Three: The Birdcatcher (October 1984 to December 1985) takes us from page 339 to the end of the book. I look forward to picking up the book again next month to finish it off, but in the meantime, I'm eager to hear your thoughts on Book Two!

The small print:  Links in this post to Amazon (including book covers) contain my Associates ID.  Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission.  For more information please visit my About Page.


  1. My daughter claimed this book to read for her literature class assignment. I must wait until she is done before I can continue reading. I am pretty sure I can read book 2 and book 3 by time the May discussion roles around.

  2. I'm sorry to take so long to get to this discussion -- it's been a crazy few weeks and I've been having trouble concentrating on things like this.

    It's fascinating that Murakami meant to end the story here as I said in my review that this part definitely felt like the middle of the story. I would have been one of the fans up in arms and demanding a Book Three! It's not necessarily that everything wasn't resolved but I don't feel like everything was even fully developed yet. You can have a fully developed plot line without a resolution but I don't think that was accomplished by the end of Book Two.

    I was a bit surprised at May Kasahara's actions when Toru Okada was in the well. I certainly didn't expect her to be that sadistic and her eventual revelation about the motorcycle accident was shocking.

    I'm not buying that Kumiko would have gone to her brother about her marital problems. Something else seems to be happening there. I'm also not trusting Malta Kano as much anymore.

    I would like to see some sort of happy ending for Creta Kano -- hopefully independent of her sister. I also want something really bad to happen to Noboru Wataya (the man, not the cat) but I'm guessing that nothing will happen to him.

  3. ibeeeg - I hope you managed to get the book back! I look forward to your thoughts when you get a chance.

    Kristen M. - And I'm sorry I didn't jump in either. I can relate to having a crazy few weeks. I really appreciate you taking the time to come back and comment.

    I totally agree with you about it still feeling like the middle of the story after Book Two. It just felt like there was much more to Toru's story after that point.

    That surprised me too about May. How cruel to purposely leave someone trapped like that. Maybe it ties into the idea of having a dark side which you sometimes can't control. I was also surprised by Toru beating that guy with the bat!

    I feel like I can't really trust anyone in the story, except for Toru perhaps. Nothing seems to be what it appears on the surface, and everyone seems to have secrets. His intentions and character seem so, not innocent exactly, but I can't find the right word, and he's so accepting of everything that happens to him. I'm not sure what this says about him, lol.

    Even though this is a re-read, it's been a few years and I've forgotten a lot of what happens especially near the end so I'm looking forward to experiencing it all again.


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