A coming-of-age tale of young college student Toru Watanabe in 1960s Japan, as he grapples with love, sex, loneliness and death, with Beatles tunes playing in the background. Toru and Naoko knew each other through Kizuki, who dated Naoko in high school. Kizuki kills himself, causing Naoko to descend into depression. Only then do she and Toru get close, because of their shared experience of dealing with Kizuki's troubling death. On the other hand, Toru meets a lively young woman in his college, Midori, who is the exact opposite of broody Naoko.
I'd give the book merely 2.5 stars because: One, the story drags on in parts as women who meet Toru seem to be inclined to launch into lengthy chronicles of their lives. I much prefer Murakami's newer and shorter book, After Dark. Secondly, I don't buy the whole thing about Midori "just trying to be honest" with her dirty talk and S&M movies. It seems to me she was trying to lead Toru on since the beginning. The book's back cover describes her as a "fiercely independent" young woman but I find her to be the opposite; she's too dependent and demanding on Toru. I also don't believe that after pining for Naoko for so long Toru suddenly tells Midori that he loves her. Really? After all the time they go out together and she teases him like crazy but he never feels anything and goes straight home after every date to write long letters to Naoko, then he suddenly finds himself in love with Midori? It's unconvincing. Even more unconvincing is him sleeping with Reiko, an older woman who stayed in a sanatorium with Naoko, after Naoko's death just because she was wearing Naoko's clothes. Thirdly, as a Japanese novel that concerns itself with loneliness, sadness and how life and death intertwines, I think Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen does a better work than this one in a more concise length.