Middle-aged men without women: Book Review


Through seven stories with an underlying theme of loneliness and dark pasts, Haruki Murakami returns with his characteristic writing style and unique take on the world with the short story collection Men Without Women. Highly intrigued by the title, and slightly hoping it would be a book full of women glorification, this collection was the second Murakami short story collection I picked up and I honestly really enjoyed it.

Title: Men Without Women: Stories
Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Vintage
Date Published: May 2018
Num of Pages: 240 pages
Date Read: 24th September, 2018

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The collection starts out with one of my favourite and most memorable stories of the entire book: Drive My Car, about a slightly older and less attractive actor who hires a quiet, interesting woman to drive his car and they slowly develop a friendship. Similarly with my experience of reading from Murakami, he has a certain unique writing style that – despite the fact that was translated from Japanese to English – really brings out the atmosphere and tone of the story really well.

Suddenly one day you become Men Without Women. That day comes to you completely out of the blue, without the faintest of warnings or hints beforehand. No premonitions or foreboding, no knocks or clearing of throats. Turn a corner and you know you’re already there.

Added to the lyrical writing in all his stories are also similar themes we can see throughout different stories: middle-aged men, sex or sexuality, quietness that turns into introspectiveness, fragments of regular life, cats, alcohol, and music. In this collection Murakami does not only explore a male protagonist reminiscing about his past when he still had his wife – which was probably what we thought most of these would be. Of course there are the occasional heartbreak stories, and flashbacks into the younger days of these protagonists’s lives. But other stories also are surprisingly unheard of before in the overall literary world, with a different element in them that simply cannot be thought of by anyone else other than Murakami.

Haruki Murakami

Some of my favourite stories in the collection include Yesterday: about two male coworkers befriending each other and sharing a woman who was one of the men’s girlfriends. It takes on the famous song by The Beatles into something else, and was one of the examples of a unique male main character. I found myself liking the more realistic stories instead of the more surrealist ones (Samsa In Love being one of the stories where I just lost interest), however the slight added mystery and fantastical element in one story Kino was also well executed and served to make me remember the story very well.

The characters in short stories are always tricky to write about – they have to be interesting and unique for them to stick to the readers but you have to convey their interesting traits in such a short space. Murakami was able to do that on some of the men (and women) in his stories, but in general I thought most of the men (which are also generally the main characters in the stories) were very similar to each other so that it’s hard to really tell them apart.

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Yet overall, of course the star of the show is the writing. It’s interesting how each story in this book was translated by different people. And in the general view of the book I found that the entire collection had such a similar tone and atmosphere, showing how skilled Murakami was able to write so that it also shows in the translation, whoever is translating it.

So to conclude this rather long review, I found myself deeply enjoying this short story collection. It’s definitely not for everyone, and not all of the stories in this book gelled with me. I liked how his writing is atmospheric and how the atmosphere and tone in these stories stuck to me even after days (or weeks) from when I last read it. I enjoyed the themes discussed, and the way they were discussed. And I think in the future I need to read his longer proses to really be able to bite into his beautiful writing.

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Related links:

Have you read this book, or anything by Haruki Murakami? What do you think about them? Let’s talk in the comments!

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On another note…

This October, it will be 1 year since the start of my renewal of this blog. Though this domain has been running for over 6 years, I started book blogging and posting books, movies and travel posts only one year ago. Therefore I will be celebrating my first blogiversary by making a small form for you guys! In there you can send me your questions on me, my personal life, my blogging life, and my reading life. I will post a Q&A of all your questions in my blogiversary celebration. It will only take a couple of minutes of your time, so please go click on the picture below to fill out the form, I would really appreciate it.

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9 thoughts on “Middle-aged men without women: Book Review

  1. I loved this review! This sounds more like a book I should read when I have more life experience, though… that’s what I noticed with 1Q84. I wanted to keep reading it, but I just felt like I was missing out on so much understanding related to the book because of my age & limited life experiences. With that aside, though, I’m definitely putting this on my TBR! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like such an incredible read. I have yet to read a Haruki Murakami book, but short stories are a great way to get into an author’s work because you get to see a larger scope of their writing than just one novel – if that makes sense. 🙂 The Beatles story sounds so intriguing! Wonderful review, Ayunda.

    ~ Aimal @ Bookshelves & Paperbacks

    Liked by 1 person

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