Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review: The Strange Library (Haruki Murakami)

The Strange Library
Title: The Strange Library
Series: standalone
Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: December 2, 2014
Genre: Adult? Magical Realism Horror
Content Rating: Older Teen (serious creepiness, some violence, minor abuse, death)
Format Read: Paperback (library)
Find It OnGoodreads

A lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plot their escape from the nightmarish library of internationally acclaimed, best-selling Haruki Murakami's wild imagination.

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I was excited to read a story by an "internationally acclaimed" Japanese writer set in a library, but this turned out to be a very strange and slightly disturbing read for me.

This "book" and I started off on several wrong feet. First, the folded cover was hard to read around. I had to get creative to keep it out of my way and yet not ruin it. Second, I'm (still) not sure if this is supposed to be a short story or a novella. While knowing really doesn't change the story, not knowing made me uneasy for some reason. 

Third, aside from the fact that the main character was still in school and living with his mother, I had no idea what age he was. I'm the type that prefers not to know every little detail about the main character, but here I would've liked a school range at the very least (grade school, middle grade, high school?). And fourth, the fact that the library shelved it in Adult Fiction aside, with the main character possibly a child I wasn't exactly sure what audience the story was meant for. With the possibly of a younger main character some might think it fit for a younger audience, and in its native Japan this may very well be considered fitting for children. But in my opinion it is much too unsettling for the younger American audience because of how it depicts libraries and librarians. Although Americans have our own "evil librarian" children's stories, all the ones I know of are in good fun. Here, librarians were made out to be brain-eating demons, and libraries horrific buildings one dare not enter for fear of kidnapping and enslavement. If this story was meant to put people off setting foot in libraries, then it could certainly do the trick.

The end was weird and rather depressing (although Japanese endings can tend to be), and after this short, quick read (at only 96 pages, offset with rather random images, I read it in a few hours) I was left feeling sad and confused and upset. Perhaps I didn't understand the story's full meaning because it's based on a Japanese legend or allegory of some kind that I've never heard of? I almost never come away with a book's theme or moral - fiction is pure entertainment to me. But possible underlying allegory or not, the surface story was confusing and unsettling to say the least, and I think I will forgo Murakami-sama's other works in the foreseeable future.

For fans of: horror

Scribble Rating:
1 out of 5 Scribbles

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