Is it possible to recapture a childhood love as an adult?
Haruki Murakami attempted to answer the question in South of the Border, West of the Sun. I made this novel my first review of 2018. I wanted to read something more introspective and intimate to start off my reading year.
I have become a Haruki Murakami fan. This is my fourth novel (A Wild Sheep Chase, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Dance Dance Dance) and fifth book overall (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) I have read in the author’s oeuvre. Delving into a writer’s body of work like this has given me a deep appreciation of his artistic style and reputation in contemporary world literature.
The story of South of the Border (taken from a Nat King Cole song), West of the Sun revolves around a near middle-aged man named Hajime. He is a successful businessman with two thriving jazz bars, a loving wife and wonderful children. Hajime has achieved the contemporary Japanese dream of a successful life. However, he feels something is still missing and revisits his childhood where he had an intimate friendship with a girl named Shimamoto. Their relationship creates such an indelible mark on Hajime that it could ruin everything he has built in his life.
Murakami chronicles the story from their blossoming relationship as kids to their separation just before high school to when Shimamoto reappears in Hajime’s life as adults. There is an inevitably to their reunion that a reader can see coming easily. However, Murakami adds a twist to that inevitably creating a two-stranded effect of heartbreak and redemption that was deeply moving.
South of the Border, West of the Sun is a novel I liked more than I loved. But, I’m glad that I read and reviewed it to start my 2018 reading year. I will put it third behind A Wild Sheep Chase and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as my favorite Murakami novels to date. This novel is a good place to start for newcomers to Murakami.