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Book Review: Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Another review written by our guest blogger, Cassandra Cervi. Cassandra studied Creative Writing and English, before doing a Master's in Media and starting as a Strategist in Toronto. She is an avid reader with a preference for magical realism and surrealism, or anything interesting and weird.

Haruki Murakami’s novel Killing Commendatore follows a painter newly separated from his wife as he moves into the home of a famous painter, Tomohiko Amada, looking to depart from the portrait painting from which he makes his living into finding the things he “really wants to paint”. In living there, he feels connected to the spirit of Amada and one day finds a long-lost painting of his, just before meeting a strange neighbor looking for a portrait. Those looking for a light and easy read would do best to look elsewhere. This book carries on Murakami’s trademark surrealist, otherworldly descriptions, carrying the reader through an ever-twisting wormhole of a plotline. Passive reading of the book would likely lead to confusion. Even reading it with all my focus, I often needed to circle back a few pages to be sure I knew what was going on. Where the book succeeds is in capturing the feeling of trying to recapture a creative spark. Murakami always does a good job of capturing feelings of emptiness, confusion, and unsettledness, and this book continues to prove that. His description engulfs readers in the world and the feeling of the protagonist. In all, though, it is not his best novel. It has the elements of his better works (a mysterious space, otherworldly plot, and otherworldly description), but this novel doesn’t really successfully step out of their shadow. I would recommend giving it a read but would suggest reading his earlier works (notably The Windup Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore) first.

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