Sputnik Sweetheart

( 45 )

Overview

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 ...

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Sputnik Sweetheart

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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 - Audio
01/27/2014
For Murakami’s novel—a portrait of love in modern-day Japan—narrator Adam Sims delivers a straightforward but layered performance that manages to capture the essence of the book’s protagonist, a writer who falls in love with a classmate, but whose dedication to his art precludes him from truly seeking her heart. Sims’s delivery is subtle and understated. The voices he lends the characters boast only slight shifts in tone and style, but are each original and effective. Fans of the author will find that Sims’s performance enhances Murakami’s prose and makes for a moving listen. A Vintage paperback. (Oct.)
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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804166676
  • Publisher: Books on Tape, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/13/2013
  • Format: MP3
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Ships to U.S.and APO/FPO addresses only.

Meet the Author

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than forty languages, and the most recent of his many international honors is the Jerusalem Prize, whose previous recipients include J. M. Coetzee, Milan Kundera, and V. S. Naipaul.

Biography

The The story of how Haruki Murakami decided to become a novelist says a lot about his work, because it is as strange and culturally diffuse as the works he writes. While watching a baseball game in Toyko in 1978 between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp, Murakami witnessed an American hit a double. At the crack of the bat, Murakami -- who had never had any ambition to write because he assumed he didn't have the talent -- decided that he should begin a novel. He then started his first book, in the night hours after work.

If you're waiting for a connection between the double and the epiphany, there isn't one. It's often that way in Murakami's fiction, where cultures blend and seemingly incongruous, inexplicable events move the story forward. People disappear or transform as quickly as the worlds around them, and the result is a dreamlike atmosphere that blends mystery, magic realism and sci-fi while remaining unmistakably distinct from all three.

Murakami was brought up in a suburb of Kobe by parents who were teachers of Japanese literature; but the literature of his parents did not interest him and he read mostly American authors, listened to American jazz and watched American shows. For this reason, though his books are set in Japan and originally written in Japanese, they do not seem terribly foreign to English speakers. South of the Border, West of the Sun's title derives from a Nat King Cole song; and you're as likely to find a reference to McDonald's, Cutty Sark or F. Scott Fitzgerald as you are to anything Japanese.

Murakami began his career with the coming-of-age novels Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973, but he hit his stride with A Wild Sheep Chase, a novel about a twentysomething ad executive who is drawn into the quest for an elusive, mutant sheep. The novel appeared in the U.S. seven years after its 1982 publication, introducing American audiences to this unclassifiable author. It contained many of the traits that mark Murakami's novels: a solitary male protagonist who drifts just outside society; first-person narration; and philosophical passages nestled within outlandish, unconventional plots. An admiring New York Times Book Review called Murakami a "mythmaker for the millennium."

The author's commercial breakthrough in Japan had come with the publication of Norwegian Wood in 1987, which sold two million copies. The story of a man who becomes involved with his best friend's girlfriend after the friend's suicide, it stands alone as the author's most straightforward, realistic work. Murakami acknowledges the book's impact on his career, and stands behind it; but he is also aware that it represented a departure from the surreal books that had made him a "cult" author with a modest following. "After Norwegian Wood, I have not written any purely realistic novels," Murakami said in a 2001 publisher's interview, "and have no intention of writing any more at this time."

Murakami's return to surrealism with Dance Dance Dance (the sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase), however, did not slow his career growth. Further translations of his work and publication of his stories in the New Yorker assured a growing following in the States, where his best known (and, to some, his best) work is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which appeared here in 1997. It's a masterful work that draws together all of the themes Murakami had been exploring in his fiction up until then: modern ennui, the unpredictability of relationships, a haunting backdrop of Japanese history.

In addition to his sublime and profoundly strange short stories and novels (Sputnik Sweetheart; Kafka on the Shore; Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, etc.), Murakami has made occasional forays into nonfiction -- most notably with Underground, a compilation of interviews with victims of the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, and his 2008 memoir of the New York City Marathon, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He has also translated several works by American authors into Japanese, including title by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, and John Irving.

Good To Know

Murakami owned a small jazz bar in Tokyo for seven years after college, an experience that he enjoyed and called upon when creating the main character of South of the Border, West of the Sun, who also owns a Tokyo jazz bar.

Murakami's first three novels, -- Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball 1973, and A Wild Sheep Chase -- comprise The Trilogy of the Rat.

His most often cited influences are Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan.

Murakami told an interviewer from Publishers Weekly in 1991 that he considers his first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973 "weak," and was not eager to have them translated into English. The translations were published, but are not available in the U.S. Third novel A Wild Sheep Chase was "the first book where I could feel a kind of sensation, the joy of telling a story. When you read a good story, you just keep reading. When I write a good story, I just keep writing."

Daniel Handler, aka children's author Lemony Snicket, is a vocal fan of Murakami's who once wrote a review/paean to the author in the Village Voice entitled "I Love Murakami." "Haruki Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction," he wrote. "....The novels aren't afraid to pull tricks usually banned from serious fiction: They are suspenseful, corny, spooky, and hilarious; they're airplane reading, but when you're through you spend the rest of the flight, the rest of the month, rethinking life."

Murakami has taught at Princeton University, where he wrote most of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Tufts University. The twin disasters of a gas attack on the Tokyo subway and the Kobe earthquake in 1995 drew the author back to Japan from the United States.

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    1. Hometown:
      Tokyo, Japan
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 12, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Kyoto, Japan
    1. Education:
      Waseda University, 1973
    2. Website:

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.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 45 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(15)

4 Star

(20)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2005

    An okay read

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2012

    Sad Surprised

    I'm finding the dialogue too contrived. This a little disappointing compared to his excellent others and I've decided to quit it here.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2012

    THIS NOVEL SHORT AND SWEET

    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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  • Posted August 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Beautifully Written

    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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  • Posted October 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great

    Sputnik Sweetheart is the first book I have read by Murakami. I thought it was a great book. It was very easy to read and it was very relaxing. The writing style is very unique and I thought it was refreshing. The story of the novel is also very unique. I would recommend this book to most people. It is something different and touching. I can't wait to read more Murakami!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2007

    Unrequited Passions

    This is an excellent book about unrequited love and unfulfilled passions, a modern story that is uniquely written and well worth the time to read!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2005

    Sputnik Sweetheart; A Legacy of Self Understanding

    Sputnik Sweetheart is probably the most poignant and meaningful Japanese contempoary novel I have ever read. It is a story of a girl's love for another woman and how she had to go on a journey of self-discovery to understand herself, but finally returns to society. I love how the story is written in the first person style of her best friend (which his name isn't given). You will never read anything so eccentrically enjoyable with truly profound semantics as Sputnik Sweetheart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2004

    Same ol'....Same ol'

    Sputnik Sweethear is Murakami's one novel written again. He still can't help dredging up the same ol' story line(disappearing, dying women), the same characters(It's the same main character as every other novel of his! He's in every novel!!), and imagery(below ground, well, etc.) that he always uses. Why do I feel like I am the only person that enjoys Murakami, but realizes that he just keeps repackaging the same stuff over and over again. He is a great writer who lost his imagination long ago. So...read one and you've read them all!! That being said his novel 'Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World' is his most imaginative and unique work to date.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2004

    doesn't cut it

    Murakami's entertaining, but I still can't *feel* what he's trying to do; he really does want to make it emotional, but for me, somehow, he just can't pull it off. The novel's characters make lovely read-ables, and I finished the book in three days. Once again, he writes an engrossing, easy read, but... he's trying to get away with emotional punch that he can't throw. =/

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2004

    Predictable, still fascinating...

    When Miu was up there staring at her own apartment, it was so predictable that she would see herself in it. This is the classic Murakami style. I've never loved one's writing like I do for Murakami. I would completely drown myself into his unreal world, and just imagine standing beside all those characters, feeling their emotions, sadness and loneliness. But if you consider yourself a happy person, you probably won't be touched by him.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2004

    the duality of everything, putting yourself in the shoes of the one who is inside the mirror

    this is my second murakami book, my first novel from him though. every murakami's character reveals every emotion they have. it really lacks a good ending but better to be left that way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2003

    Murakami at his best

    I wanted to grab a book off the shelf at Londaon Gatwick airport to get me back to the states in one sitting and this fine novel did the trick. Easy to read and very engrossing in its plot and narrative, Sputnik Sweetheart grabbed me from the first paragraph. I truly enjoy this author. After reading more difficult literary novels with deep themes, it is always refreshing to read something that has simpler language and construction while at the same time conveying the most important of ideas. This is a must read for those interested in themes about love and its aftermath.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2002

    mmm...

    i read Sputnik Sweetheart after West to the sun, east to the coast, and i found that sputnik had less 'substance' in it. the Sumire's disappearance was intriguing, but i expected a better ending... the book was still very interesting to read. i had lots of pleasure reading it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2002

    bizzarre, but since when is that bad?

    I managed to read the book in two sittings - it was extremely involving. It starts off fairly light, and you don't realize how wrapped up you are until you look at the clock. It is extremely strange once Sumire disappears, but that only added to its quality.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45 Customer Reviews

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