Quality of writing: ★★★★
WARNINGS: inappropriate conversations between a 13-year-old and a 30 something-year-old. Hyper-sexualisation of the female body.
FROM: Penguin Random House NZ
WHAT I LIKED
- The writing
- The 3D characters
- The calm feeling procurred by reading this
WHAT I WAS MEH ABOUT
- The repeated talk about female genitalia
- The overall length
The first thing I can say about this book is that it just is. I neither enjoyed it nor disliked it, it just, was. As confusing as that sounds, trust me, it confused me more to try to explain it. Killing Commendatore is a novel that follows our main character as he is divorced, goes on a road trip, moves into a new house, and starts seeing things come alive after opening up an old pit.
The plot is confusing so to narrow it down, the MC hears a bell ringing in the night after uncovering a painting by a famous artist who he is house-sitting for after being divorced. He follows the noise of the bell ringing only to find an empty well like structure. After this, things become convoluted and intriguing as an ‘idea’ (sort of like a ghost) appears to him as the Commendatore, He meets a stranger who could be a friend or enemy, and is thrust into a world that doesn’t seem quite real.
This novel was confusing and convoluted at the best of times yet it never felt like it was doing so unneeded. It was the plot and the way that it moved forward that was twisting itself up. One moment a character would make a comment and you would have the ‘aha!’ moment, being able to link it back to earlier in the book. But at another moment, you’re left with unanswered questions.
The only major thing that bugged me while reading this, is knowing that it could have been a 300-page story instead of a 681-page story. Yet, to some degree, I understand why it was left so long. Mainly for the writer’s style to show. Murakami has a very long-winded whimsical writing style and it really showed in this book.
I adored the writing style most of all. It was very in-depth and often it felt like it toed the line of too prosey, yet that was what made it likable. It was elegant and intriguing. I feel like as a writer, I’ve learnt a lot about writing while reading this. It is filled with different characters who are all lifelike with different agendas and opinions and the plot, when boiled down to the simpilest point, is a classic, man searching for truths about himself.
I think a lot of this novel must have flown over my head as on my notecard (I use an index card as my bookmark on all books to take notes) I have things written such as
“Why does this focus on ww2?”
“why is there an ‘idea’ that has come to life?
“Why is Menshiki so obsessed with his possible daughter?”
So as you can see, I was indeed left with more questions than answers by the time I was done with this novel. however, that didn’t feel exactly like a bad thing. More so like I was an observer for the novel and just being dragged along for the ride.
However, there were some negatives. The MC is rather obsessed with female genitalia and it was really unneeded to the plot. If it added to the plot, I’d deal with it, but it really didn’t and just made me dislike the MC more. We couldn’t go 100 pages without him going on about having sex or referencing vaginas. It was weird, to say the least. And then he meets a 13-year-old character, who constantly complains to him about her breasts, and how flat they are. While he doesn’t really comment too much on it (thank god!) it was weird and felt like it should have been a moment where he shut her down and said it wasn’t an appropriate conversation to have or something of the like. Plus, when I was thirteen I talked to my friends or mum about that stuff, not a stranger painting your portrait!
Overall this novel was very whimsical, drawing the line between contemporary fiction and fantasy. There were a lot of fantastical elements, and while a lot of things were conveniently explained away, there was enough drama to suffice. It has its merits and it’s downsides. I think this would be a real hit with his current fans, fans of Magical Realism, Japanese literature & those interested in long-winded books about a painting.