The #winditup2013 Read-Along Update: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Book Three)

Wind-Up Bird Read Along Button 2013

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Book Three)
By Haruki Murakami
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780679775430, 1998, 624pp.)

This post shares my thoughts on book three. If you are reading along with me and have not finished book book three, save this post for later as it may contain spoilers.

In a nutshell, what takes place in book three? 

Book three was pretty exciting. Toru is determined to find his wife Kumiko even though Kumiko’s powerful brother Noboru, advises Toru against it. In his heart, Toru believes that Kumiko did not leave by choice. He is so convinced of this, that he decides to purchase the abandoned property by his home known as the hanging house. The house is considered to be bad luck for anyone who lives there, but Toru doesn’t care because that is where the dried up well is and he needs more time in the well to figure out what is going on. Toru is unemployed with little in savings so the cost of purchasing such a property, no matter how undesirable it may be, proves to be too much for him. The money becomes available when he accepts a position as Nutmeg’s replacement in the “fitting” room.

The fitting room is where Toru meets with strange women to remove whatever is bothering them. After a small test of sorts, Nutmeg has the hanging house leveled and builds a compound in its place. This allows Toru to work as a fitting room consultant without the peering eyes of neighbors, and it allows him access to the well when he needs it. A lot of strange things happen in the well and compound. He visits the “other side” when he goes down in the well and he receives communication from Kumiko by way of online chatting. Some of the characters who played prominent roles in book two come back and there is a large chunk of the book dedicated to the Manchurian Incident.

Things happen and discoveries are made. It was quite a book and I was worried when I got down to the last 45 pages that I’d be left hanging, but I did feel there was a resolution of sorts. Not one with perfectly tied bows but I did feel satisfied with how it ended. I still have a lot of questions though.

Murakami has admitted in the past that he never knows how a story will end when he begins to write it. Based on interviews, this was particularly true with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Do you feel that this technique added something to the story? Or do you feel that it had the opposite effect?

As I was reading, I enjoyed the “wild ride” and was often surprised at where Murakami’s mind took us. When I finished the book though, I spent an entire week trying to piece it together to make sense of what took place. It’s not an impossible story to piece together because in my mind. There are clues from the past that help you makes sense of the stuff going on, but there must have been about five possible outcomes and I don’t think any of them are wrong.

When I finished, I immediately wrote-up what I thought had happened and then shared it with a few others who I knew were done with the book and they came back with other possibilities that I had not considered. After spending a week trying to come-up with the one outcome that Murakami wanted us to take-away as readers, I’ve decided that since he didn’t know how it was going to end himself, that the outcomes mentioned are clearly up to us as readers.

I know this drives some people nuts because so many of you want a firm resolution to sit back on, but this is not the case with this book and I am 100% okay with it. I felt that it came together enough to give me the satisfaction I needed as a reader and the meandering nature of the plot, set my imagination on high. I’m not sure this meandering technique works with all of his books, but I do feel that it worked with this one.

What do YOU feel happened to Kumiko?

There are a lot of theories floating around about Kumiko’s disappearance and I’ll mention a couple that came to mind:

  • That she was always there, but transparent. I got the impression at one point that Kumiko’s self-worth was lost after she became a prostitute for her brother. Another blogger questioned this saying that she was never a prostitute but the reason why I thought this, was because of her mention of “many men” and we know Noboru’s history with Creta so I thought that this was how he was controlling her. The transparency thing was something I considered when Toru mentions that someone is always there, but not visible. In my mind, she turned within herself and vanished only to be seen in this other place on the other side of the well wall. 
  • Another thing I considered, is that physically she was holed-up somewhere, but that she visited Toru in the form of Creta. Creta had the same body type and often reminded Toru of Kumiko. Later, when Creta’s baby is discussed, another blogger and I could not help but think that this “baby” was the baby that Kumiko aborted early in the marriage.

Crazy, huh? I had a lot of fun coming up with possibilities. Especially when I realized that no theory is really wrong, considering Murakami had no idea where he was going with the story when he wrote it.

Who was the guy without a face?

In the final hotel scene, Toru gets some assistance from a man without a face. I took this to mean that his face was not visible to Toru (for whatever reason). Many ideas ran through my mind. At first, I thought it was Ushikawa, the loser guy that was a messenger for Noboru. Then, I thought it was Toru from the other side. What I’ve settled on, is that it was Cinnamon. That Cinnamon took the bat from the well and put it in that hotel room for Toru to use later. This also fits if you think about Cinnamon leaving the computer accessible so that Toru could read the Chronicles if he chose to do so. It’s as if Nutmeg and Cinnamon were hired to help him out. I sort of liked this idea so that is what I am sticking to.

What do you think?

What part did you least enjoy in book three?

I really, really did not like the bits about World War II. I didn’t mind the mining camp too much but when it went back to discuss the 2nd massacre and we got to know Boris the Manskinner a little bit more, I really had to  focus as I was tempted to skim. However, now that I am done with the book, I think if any true answers are to be found that they are to be found in those sections.

Your turn! What’s your final verdict?

Did you enjoy the experience? If this was your first experience with Murakami’s writing, will you be reading his other books at some point? Or have you decided he’s not for you?

Finally, Thank you!

Thank you for reading along with me. I know many of you went outside of your comfort zone to join me and I appreciate it! It’s been fun and I will miss the interaction. I spent the last week going through withdrawals but I think I’m good now!

And the mysterious black/blue mark that I reported having last week seems to be fading. This is my final update post but I may write-up a short review that includes all of the updates posts and a little bit more. Other than that, we are done!

Blue Black Mark - Wind-Up

If you missed the read-along but are intrigued but what you’ve seen here, follow the conversation on Twitter! (#winditup2013)

If you did a write-up for your blog, click on Mister Linky below and add the direct link to your post.

15 thoughts on “The #winditup2013 Read-Along Update: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Book Three)”

  1. I’ll admit that he first part of the book was fun…trying to see what happened. After that, though, I wearied, especially when he went into the well. If I read more Murakami, it will be his shorter works, that’s for sure. I still have Norweigan Wood on my TBR pile for this year and his running memoir, I’d like to read because I used to consider myself a runner. However, his longer ones, I think I’ll skip. I know I might have been (okay, I was) harsh in my criticism in my DNF post about the book, but really it did help clarify for me what I need to stay away from with Murakami personally. So thanks…and the discussions that you had online were very good for a readathon. I’ve been in a few others, where there wasn’t as much interaction.

    1. Based on what you said, you probably would have enjoyed the last half of book three as there was a lot to sort out. The mystery of it held my interest. But alas, we’ll never know 😉 Seriously though, I never expected everyone to love the book. All I wanted was plenty of stuff to discuss and there was enough of that to make me happy.

  2. I’d be curious to know more about what answers you found in the WWII parts. I think that they served a purpose in the novel and fit in but I didn’t find all the answers there. And I agree with you that Bryan probably would have been satisfied with the resolution–I think he might have jumped to conclusions a bit. 😉 I tend to agree more with your second solution for Kumiko’s disappearance rather than the first but ultimately it doesn’t really matter to me–I could drive myself crazy trying to make sense of Murakami and in the end it just doesn’t matter. Why happens happens and that’s all there is to it. LOL–that doesn’t make any sense…I guess I have a “just go with it” philosophy towards these books. I do agree about Cinnamon being the faceless man although I just barely remember him.

    Fun readalong. I probably would have waited another few years before FINALLY picking this one up so I’m grateful for the push.

    1. I didn’t read the WWII parts all that carefully, but I think there is more to the connection between Lt. Mamiya and Toru than what we got. I could be wrong. I also think that maybe a political statement was buried in there somewhere. I am going to re-read it at some point. Just not anytime soon!

  3. I love the way you love these…maybe someday…when I finish all of my summer dysfunctional reading…these will be waiting!

  4. After thinking about the book for a week, I’m percolating on a dual reality theory with some time twists involved allowing people and evil to move back and forth in time and place. I’m still working on how May fits in exactly.

    1. I considered something similar and even considered reincarnation but I couldn’t remember what happened to the vet at the zoo. He had the mark. Toru had the mark. Lt. Mamiya could have been a time traveler and the well was the vessel. May…existed only in the present day. Maybe she was the Wind-Up bird!

  5. This is not my favourite Murakami, honestly. It is too confusing, lots of loose ends, meandering, and too much in the air! I hope you like Sputnik Sweetheart more. 🙂

  6. I fell off Twitter with a terribly busy early May at work, and missed much of the Book Three discussion, but have finally posted my wrap-up, and want to thank you so much for hosting this! It was great! It’s good to get others’ thoughts on the whole book, but especially on Book Three, which was even more of a puzzle than the rest!

    1. That’s what’s nice about the Twitter conversations, even if you weren’t there to participate,you can still go back and take a look at what was being said. I had a busy May too. I held off on the reading so others could catch up and then they all passed me by and I was way behind. Heading over now to read your post.

  7. I loved hearing your thoughts on this one. And though I would have liked a few more bows on my ending, it was fun to come up with ideas about what the heck happened!! I would love to hear Murakami go into more detail about this book, but I suppose part of the fun and his mystique is to let the readers do that. It was a great readalong experience … and if ever a book benefited from discussion, this was it!

    1. Right after I finished wind-up, I had all these strange theories in my head but even Murakami didn’t know how the characters would end up so I think he just put pen to paper and ran with it. 

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