South of the Border, West of the Sun is a Japanese novel by Haruki Murakami that centers on Hajime, a lonely man who begins a dangerous relationship with a mysterious woman, Shimamoto, jeopardizing his marriage.
The book explores themes of love, loss, spirituality, dreams, the power of music, redemption, and sexual identity. It also delves into Japan’s World War II heritage, the notion of reality, and the authority of prophecy, fate, and nature.
The novel portrays Hajime’s interactions and relationships with people through life and his struggles, in later years, to shake off a listless existence. The presence of Shimamoto is associated with rain or water, like some noir pulp fiction.
However, just as rain forces us inside to keep dry, it is also a source of water that revives life. The book received widespread critical praise upon publication, and many critics (including me) believe that it is Murakami’s best work.
What I Liked
I really don’t know – I’ve read every book that Murakami has written and I still can’t put my finger on why. There’s something – it’s a weird mix of setting, character, and something that draws me to read all of his books. Same with this one. It’s brilliant, but strange. This one in particular is by far my favorite – and the one your should start with if you are curious about Murakami.
What I Did Not Like
Ok. Murakami is weird. Like really, really weird. I don’t think I can recommend any of his books to anyone. So, I don’t like that. But I also don’t think he can be any less weird without losing some of his books’ magic (they do a lot of magical realism anyway).