Sputnik Sweetheart, by Haruki Murakami, Vintage, 2002, 229pp.
Last weekend Ross and I went in to Chinatown for Chinese New Year (Pig is my year; Ross is a Monkey). I was afraid that all we would see would be massive crowds around Leicester and Trafalgar squares, and so it was. We did not even manage to eat Chinese food, settling for Yo Sushi much later in the day. Instead we popped in to the National Gallery and saw two young women with virginals, one standing and one seated. I liked the seated one better. Claire and Patricia had seen these earlier, but did not move on to the next room to see the anamorphic peep show that Ross and I admired. This is a pity since Claire, like Wintermute, likes populating shoeboxes with tiny things.
Ross and I spent the most time at the bookshops in Tottenham Court Road. He got Can Cows Walk Down Stairs? of the Imponderables genre that he likes. I bought How to Cut a Cake, hoping that Ross would read that as well. And I got Sputnik Sweetheart for me.
Murakami is in minimalist mode here. We have a simple love triangle: the narrator K loves Sumire, a waif who wishes to write like Kerouac. Sumire loves Miu, the older businesswoman with a tragic past. Miu and Sumire travel to a Greek island, where Sumire disappears. The disappearance involves going to "the other side", or losing part of oneself there. For a second it looks as if the surreal stuff is going to be too pat, but as usual Murakami pulls back and instead the effect is pleasantly mysterious. I feel it is a book one should read in a single sitting, but I had to read it in doses, which may be why it did not touch me as much as it might have. I seem to remember that the waif in Kitchen annoyed me in a similar way to Sumire.
I liked this sentence: "A gentle breeze blew, softly rustling the hems of young girls' skirts and wafting over the leisurely fragrance of young trees." I also liked the scene with the shoplifting boy.
As in Kafka on the Shore there are some interesting music recommendations.