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Sputnik Sweetheart
     

Sputnik Sweetheart

4.0 45
by Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (Translator)
 

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Combining the seductions of Norwegian Wood with the complex mysteries of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, here is Murakami at his most intriguing, mystifying, and satisfying.

In an urbane Japan of jazz bars, coffee shops, Jack Kerouac and the Beatles, our narrator, a college student, falls in love with his classmate, Summire. But devotion to an

Overview


Combining the seductions of Norwegian Wood with the complex mysteries of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, here is Murakami at his most intriguing, mystifying, and satisfying.

In an urbane Japan of jazz bars, coffee shops, Jack Kerouac and the Beatles, our narrator, a college student, falls in love with his classmate, Summire. But devotion to an untidy writerly life precludes any personal commitments–until she meets Miu, a sophisticated businesswoman.

Together, Summire and Miu travel to an island off the coast of Greece, where Summire disappears. Our narrator, recruited to join the search party, is then drawn back into this tangled triangle of uniquely unrequited love. In the guise of a story about a search for a missing-person, Sputnik Sweetheart ultimately lingers in the mind as a profound meditation on human longing.
“Murakami is a world-class writer who has both eyes open and takes big risks.”–The Washington Post Book World

“Grabs you from the opening lines…. He’s never written anything more openly emotional.”–Los Angeles Magazine

“An agonizing, sweet story about the power and the pain of love…immensely deepened by perfect little images that leave much to be filled in by the reader’s heart or eye.”–The Baltimore Sun

“Elegant…. Murakami has an unmatched gift for turning psychological metaphors into uncanny narratives.”–The New York Times Book Review

Editorial Reviews

bn.com Review
The Barnes & Noble Review
Haruki Murakami's seventh novel to be translated into English is at once a moving tale of an extraordinary love and a haunting mystery, complete with Murakami's signature touches of magic realism.

Sumire, the novel's heroine, is a young, aspiring writer who considers herself to be the ultimate rebel. She chain-smokes, dresses like an unkempt little boy, is obsessed with Jack Kerouac, and seems to reject -- almost on principle -- all the mores and manifestations of normal society, including love and sex. According to the narrator, "If she did experience sex -- or something close to it -- in high school, I'm sure it would have been less out of sexual desire or love than literary curiosity." Sumire spends most of her time writing stories with which she is never satisfied and discussing the meaning of life with her best friend, a levelheaded Tokyo schoolteacher with a penchant for sleeping with the mothers of his students. To the reader, and to Sumire herself, it seems as if she is waiting, primed, for her life to truly begin.

Life does in fact begin -- and almost end -- for Sumire when she meets an elegant older woman named Miu at a cousin's wedding. Sumire, who has never known love, falls head-over-heels for this mysterious woman, and the two develop a close friendship. Miu seems determined to become a mentor to Sumire and offers her a job as her personal assistant. When Miu and her new assistant take a business trip to Europe, the story becomes increasingly dreamlike -- or, more accurately, nightmarish. In Europe, Miu finally confides in Sumire about the experience that forever changed the older woman's life, an experience that psychically broke her in half and left behind only a shell of the person she once was. In her determination to become closer to and fully understand Miu, Sumire sets out on her own world-shattering journey to the "other side," a trip that nearly leads her away from Miu and from her life in Japan forever.

The novel is told in first person, but not from Sumire's perspective. Instead it is told by Sumire's best friend, the Tokyo schoolteacher who for years has been secretly in love with her. The narrator's inability to fully understand the journey that Sumire takes during the novel imparts an added aura of mystery to her already unfathomable pilgrimage. But his love for and faith in Sumire allow the reader to believe that, unlike Miu, this young woman will find the strength to survive her ordeal and return intact. (Laura Beers)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Murakami's seventh novel to be translated into English is a short, enigmatic chronicle of unrequited desire involving three acquaintances the narrator, a 24-year-old Tokyo schoolteacher; his friend Sumire, an erratic, dreamy writer who idolizes Jack Kerouac; and Miu, a beautiful married businesswoman with a secret in her past so harrowing it has turned her hair snowy white. When Sumire abandons her writing for life as an assistant to Miu and later disappears while the two are vacationing on a Greek island, the narrator/teacher travels across the world to help find her. Once on the island, he discovers Sumire has written two stories: one explaining the extent of her longing for Miu; the second revealing the secret from Miu's past that bleached her hair and prevents her from getting close to anyone. All of the characters suffer from bouts of existential despair, and in the end, back in Tokyo, having lost both of his potential saviors and deciding to end a loveless affair with a student's mother, the narrator laments his loneliness. Though the story is almost stark in its simplicity more like Murakami's romantic Norwegian Wood than his surreal Wind-Up Bird Chronicles the careful intimacy of the protagonists' conversation and their tightly controlled passion for each other make this slim book worthwhile. Like a Zen koan, Murakami's tale of the search for human connection asks only questions, offers no answers and must be meditated upon to provide meaning. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Murakami's (Norwegian Wood) seventh book in translation is a love story wrapped in a mystery packaged in a light-side/dark-side philosophical wrapper. While in college, the narrator falls in love with untidy novelist manqu Sumire, who wants only to be best friends. They talk and talk. Sumire later falls hard for Miu, an older, married woman for whom she begins working. Then, on a business/pleasure trip to Greece with Miu, Sumire disappears. From a plot standpoint, this disappearance, which occurs a third of the way through the book, is the first time that anything interesting happens. The narrator's fixation on Sumire is not all that fascinating, nor is its object. As for Murakami's vaunted writing, one gets more dead-hit metaphors per ream from "commercial" writers like Loren Estleman. The philosophical black/white/doppelganger stuff is not without interest, but not normally the stuff of the (American) mass market. Recommended for Murakami initiates and large fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/00.]--Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Grabs you from its opening lines. . . . [Murakami’s] never written anything more openly emotional.” –Los Angeles Magazine

“Murakami is a genius.” –Chicago Tribune

“Murakami has an unmatched gift for turning psychological metaphors into uncanny narratives.” –The New York Times Book Review

“An agonizing, sweet story about the power and the pain of love. . . . Immensely deepened by perfect little images that leave much to be filled in by the reader’s heart or eye.” –The Baltimore Sun

“[Murakami belongs] in the topmost rank of writers of international stature.” –Newsday

“Murakami’s true achievement lies in the humor and vision he brings to even the most despairing moments.” –The New Yorker

“Perhaps better than any contemporary writer, [Murakami] captures and lays bare the raw human emotion of longing.” –BookPage

“Murakami . . . has a deep interest in the alienation of self, which lifts [Sputnik Sweetheart] into both fantasy and philosophy.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Not just a great Japanese writer but a great writer, period.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375411694
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/24/2001
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.88(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.04(d)

Read an Excerpt

Haruki Murakami, the internationally bestselling author of Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, plunges us into an urbane Japan of jazz bars, coffee shops, Jack Kerouac, and the Beatles to tell this story of a tangled triangle of uniquely unrequited loves.

A college student, identified only as “K,” falls in love with his classmate, Sumire. But devotion to an untidy writerly life precludes her from any personal commitments–until she meets Miu, an older and much more sophisticated businesswoman. When Sumire disappears from an island off the coast of Greece, “K” is solicited to join the search party and finds himself drawn back into her world and beset by ominous, haunting visions. A love story combined with a detective story, Sputnik Sweetheart ultimately lingers in the mind as a profound meditation on human longing.

Meet the Author

Born in Kyoto, Japan, in 1949, Haruki Murakami grew up in Kobe and now lives near Tokyo. The most recent of his many honors is the Yomiuri Literary Prize, whose previous recipients include Yukio Mishima, Kenzaburo Oe, and Kobo Abe. His work has been translated into moer than fifty languages.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Tokyo, Japan
Date of Birth:
January 12, 1949
Place of Birth:
Kyoto, Japan
Education:
Waseda University, 1973
Website:
http://www.harukimurakami.com

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Sputnik Sweetheart 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was just okay. The ending seemed a little bit rushed and forced, and very out of nowhere. It was an easy read however, and I would read it if you are a Murakami fan. It wouldn't be a waste of time to read it, but the book might make you feel a bit unsatisfied. It wasn't too memorable, but fans should give it a read. Then go read Hardboiled Wonderland.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm finding the dialogue too contrived. This a little disappointing compared to his excellent others and I've decided to quit it here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although not much in length I would say this story still packs a punch and is worth paying for. I have never been to Japan or Greece for that matter and yet could still vividly see the characters there while I read about them. It involves a certain humor and mystery with existential romance that somehow feels genuine right from the start. Not easy to find a story like this one here unless you already know Murakami.
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Saki More than 1 year ago
I was recommended this book by a friend and decided to give it a try. This book from the very beginning is a complete page turner. I found the characters to be very relatable. What I really love about this book is Hurakami's style of writing. Its very descriptive and really gives you a sense of whats going on both with the characters/their thoughts and with their surroundings. Overall I find this book really refreshing to read. The only thing that disppointed me a bit was the ending. It felt a bit abrupt, but all in all definitely a good read.
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