Sputnik Sweetheart – review

sweetheartSputnik Sweetheart
by Haruki Murakami
1999/ 224 pages
read by Adam Sims 7h 6m
rating:  7/ 20th century fiction

So,  as a fan of Murakami,  why did it take me so long to get to this?  – Well,  I was scared it wouldn’t be as good as the ones I’d read – 7 others to date – and I was right – this is likely my least favorite of the Murakami fiction I’ve read – it’s tied with Norwegian Wood which is similar.   And my favorites are The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, my first Murakami, and 1Q84.   I’ve also enjoyed a couple of his collections of short stories.

So what’s wrong?  I think Murakami wears off – many of his tales deal with the same things  or combinations of them – the loneliness of youthful existential angst, dreamy otherworldliness,  suspense, sex, music, cats, books, and wells – more sex, some gruesome stuff.   And those old Murakami motifs are all here along with a lot of fear and a smattering of the occult.  The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle uses all these things and was innovative then,  and hugely successful so … he’s repeated the pattern. The very long 1Q84 is a bit different in some ways getting back to some politics ala The Wild Sheep Chase.  

In Sputnik Sweetheart we have a first person young man who is smitten with a woman who won’t return his affection.  Come to find out she’s lesbian and has a lover – or a would-be lover.  Sumire is a self-centered  airhead, very immature,  loner and wanna-be novel writer and she seems to use the narrator’s affection for her own purposes.  One day Sumire goes on a business trip with her lover,  Miu, and they end up on a Greek Island.  The narrator gets a phone call from Miu saying Sumire has disappeared so he travels there to help.

The entire ambiance and major theme is existential loneliness – the Russian satellite, Sputnik, is a a lonely piece of metal floating around in space.  I suppose that might be an interesting metaphor for the young people at which I think this novel aims.

Bottom line – skip it unless you’re a die-hard Murakami fan or a young adult – ages 17 to 25 or so.

>>>>NOTES and additional thoughts>>>> 

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