Tag Archives: Vintage 21 Rainbow

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

People have been recommending this author to me for a long time. One of my reading goals in 2017 was to try to read authors of more diverse backgrounds, including books published in languages other than English, and this one has been on my list for a while. The edition I have is actually part of the Vintage 21 Rainbow set with tinted edges, however because this one is white, strictly speaking the page edges aren’t coloured. Either way, it looks good on my shelf and it was high time I read it.


“The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami is a magic realism novel set in Japan in the 1980s. The story is told from the perspective of Toru Okada, a man who has recently quit his job as a law clerk and who stays at home keeping the house while his wife Kumiko works. When Kumiko asks him to search for their missing cat, named after Kumiko’s brother Naburo Wataya, Okada begins to have strange encounters and telephone calls with some very unusual people. Okada begins to realise that the missing cat is the least of his problems.

There is so much going on in this book and it’s quite lengthy, so I won’t go into too much more detail about the plot. It is also a translated novel, with the English by Jay Rubin, so events aside, my review will necessarily have to be based on Rubin’s interpretation. Anyway, first of all, this is a fascinating book. Okada is quite a subversive protagonist whose passive and domestic ways are almost a rebellion against the expectation of both the reader and those around him. Despite the criticism he receives from others in the novel, I found him to be a refreshing character. Like a kind of magnet, people are drawn to him and compelled to tell him their life stories and in listening, he begins to draw out themes and parallels that apply to his own problems.

This is a story that is very rich in motifs and imagery. There is quite a large cast of characters who each take turns telling bits and pieces of their own stories, and it is a very complex novel. It becomes increasingly complex towards the end as the supernatural elements begin to become more prominent although Murakami manages to maintain a reasonable level of coherence throughout. I found that this book had quite a Roald Dahl-esque tone about it, no doubt due to the translator’s own style, with lots “terrific” thrown about that ultimately I felt suited the story.

Writing this review is tricky because while it is a complex, compelling story – is that enough for it to be a good book? There were quite a few times where I felt like there was a little too much crammed into this book, and some of the delicacy and subtlety of the earlier chapters was lost towards the middle – especially Lieutenant Mamiya’s recollections of his involvement in the Japanese occupation of Manchukuo in World War II. It is quite a long book, and there a lot of strands of story to keep abreast of as it progresses – some of which, like Creta Kano’s, seem to fizzle out without resolution.

An incredibly intricate story with a myriad of characters, it was at times a difficult read but has definitely left me wanting to read more of Murakami’s work.


Filed under Book Reviews, General Fiction, Pretty Books, Tinted Edges, Vintage 21 Rainbow

The Road Home

I had never heard of “The Road Home” by Rose Tremain before I started collecting books in the Vintage 21 Rainbow set. It quickly became apparent that it was another immigration-themed novel, but unlike my last experience, this one is actually rather brilliant.

The story follows Lev, a recently widowed man who has left his mother and daughter behind in his home country (never specified, but suggested to be Eastern European) in search of work and a new life in London. While he’s there, he struggles with grief, homesickness, finding work, meeting people and envisioning a future for himself without his wife.


“The Road Home” is a great novel. There’s no question. Tremain has a real knack for observation, and weaves together all the pieces of her knowledge of people and places to create a work that is striking in its realism. Lev is a real antihero. He’s dreamy, he’s often inconsiderate, he’s aimless and he’s completely relatable. Every thought, every mistake, every little piece of humanity that he notices makes this book feel like it really is something that could have actually happened. The people that Lev meets are just as interesting, complex and human as he is with their own flaws and their own dreams.

Not a huge amount happens in this book, so if you’re looking for something fast-paced and action-packed, you won’t find it here. What you will find is an intricate, thoughtful book about identity, discovery and direction. It’s a book about being an adult and becoming an adult, which for some people can take a couple of decades longer than others. “The Road Home” was a real surprise, and would make a great holiday read or a great weekend book where you can give it a bit of time, savour it and step into someone else’s world for a while.

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Filed under Book Reviews, General Fiction, Pretty Books, Tinted Edges, Vintage 21 Rainbow

Star of the Sea

For my first ever post on my brand new book blog, I thought I would start with this absolute gem that I read over the Christmas holidays. “Star of the Sea” by Joseph O’Connor is a book that has everything: murder, suspense, history, politics, tragedy, a ship, romance, culture and philosophy. When I picked this book up solely because it is part of the Vintage 21 Rainbow collection that I have been hunting avidly for the last year and therefore is a very pretty turquoise paperback with matching tinted page edges, I had very few expectations for its actual content. However, the blurb on the back intrigued me, and I packed it (along with a number of others) in my backpack to read during my Christmas holiday in the UK. Serendipitously, it was the book I was reading when the weather was finally still enough to take my aunt and uncle’s narrow boat out for the day. If travelling sedately in a boat, cosied up next to a fireplace, on a canal, on a clear winter’s day in the English countryside is not the perfect place to read about the trials and intrigue of a ship’s journey from starving Ireland to the USA in the mid-1800s, then I have no idea what is.

Star of the Sea

“Star of the Sea”, published in 2004, has an ensemble cast of characters brought together on a journey to America whose lives are far more intertwined than first meets the eye. Posited as a murder-mystery-cum-autobiography of one of the passengers, the  novel is tied together by the looming threat of a murder and the increasingly grim conditions on board the eponymous ship. The chapters are interspersed with political cartoons and newspaper articles which paint an unsettling picture of the racial profiling and blatant discrimination directed at the Irish at the time. As a reader following dramatic revelation after dramatic revelation, it is hard to form firm allegiances or sympathies with any of the main characters and I was left with the impression that each character was as complex as the unlikely set of circumstances that had led them onto the ship in the first place. This book wasn’t boring for a moment, and while I felt as though O’Connor may have overused suspense as his primary plot device, the effect this mishmash of genres had was both surprising and lingering. After I finished it, I found myself thinking about this book for days. I talked to people about it. I exclaimed, I bemoaned and I wondered.

I think that this is a book that just about anyone can get something out of, and if you’re looking for a holiday read to sink your literary teeth into, this is a great choice.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Pretty Books, Tinted Edges, Vintage 21 Rainbow