Page Turner: Killing Commendatore

As part of the Reading Glasses Challenge, I need to read a book recommended by a librarian. Does a former librarian of 40 years you meet in your favourite book shop on holiday count? 

Sidenote, bookshops are magical. On that day, I kept meeting lovely older women who gave me so many golden recommendations. If it wasn’t for the fact I was only allowed to buy two books on my holiday, chances are I would have bought them all. Big shoutout to The Edge Of The World Bookshop in Penzance, Cornwall. One of the best small indie bookshops you can ever go to.

Alright, confession time. Until now, I have never read any of Haruki Murakami’s works proper. The only book of his I read prior was Underground, which was his interviews with survivors of the most famous terrorist attack on Japanese soil since WWII. Great book, don’t get me wrong. However, I kept hearing his name popping up now and then, folks seem to love his work. What put me off for so long was, well, I didn’t know where to start. That is when the sweet former librarian came in and helped me out, selecting Killing Commendatore for me.

Even though she no longer works for the library, the woman is still good at her former job! I adored this book!

Killing Commendatore is the story of a recently divorced portrait painter who moves to an isolated mountain house to get away from it all. Things don’t stay idyllic for long when he discovers a hidden painting in the attic. As he finds himself drawn to the painting, weird events start to occur around his secluded new home. Somehow this painting has connections to an assassination plot long forgotten by history and otherworldly characters, literally.

Our nameless narrator is a decent chap and a man of simple pleasures, but a little bland compared to the rest of the cast for the most part. That isn’t a criticism as it works, making the supporting cast stand out. Namely, the charming but curious neighbour Wataru Menshiki. 

Menshiki always kept me guessing, I kept getting the impression he knew more than he was letting on. I kept wondering why he always helped our painter protagonist, even by the end, I wasn’t entirely sure I understood him. That might be infuriating to some, but I love that.

I was forewarned that Murakami’s books are often on the weird side, good. I love surrealist novels and magical realism, hence why I enjoyed Killing Commendatore. Reading this felt like a slow descent into madness in a good way, of course. However, it does make the book hard to talk about without sounding mad or giving away major spoilers. 

If I had to nitpick, I do think the book drags on a bit. I think it could have been trimmed a little here and there. Also, what was up the constant talk about breasts? I’m still unsure how I feel about that, but it isn’t the first book I’ve read that seems to fixate on them. Hex, I am looking at you. 

Overall, I loved Killing Commendatore. I definitely need to read more of Murakami’s work soon. Our dear former librarian informed me my next venture into his work should be Kafka on the Shore. From what I read about it, it sure sounds promising. 

Mental, but promising. It seems to be a theme with Murakami. Only one way to find out for myself.

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