haruki murakami's sputnik Sweetheart is humorous, historically informative and, as usual when it comes to Murakami, unique. Melancholic writer Sumire cannot complete a substantial story. She quits college to focus on her writing and falls in love with an elegant, worldly older woman named Miu.
A slip of Miu's tongue confuses the words "beatnik" and "Sputnik," and Sputnik, the pioneering USSR space satellite that flew over the U.S. seven times a day, acts as a metaphor for the profound loneliness of the characters.
In Sumire's desperation to be close to the married object of her affections, she begins to work at Miu's business importing fine wines. Slowly, she changes to fit into Miu's milieu and entirely loses her ability to write.
Meanwhile, Sumire's best male friend (who remains unnamed, as if that token piece of individuality were beside the point) is falling in love with her.
Sumire travels with Miu to a remote Greek island for business, and disappears without a trace. The best friend is summoned to help find her.
Here the story becomes a surreal mystery. The only clues he can find are an odd conversation Sumire had with Miu about a spooked cat and a diary Sumire kept on a floppy disk locked away in a suitcase.
The ending doesn't quite satisfy the reader's intense curiosity. But that's the beauty of it. Murakami, a spectacularly intelligent novelist, understands suspense.
The translation from Japanese to English isn't as smooth as in previous works and wasn't carefully edited. The rush of Murakami's fame may be blunting the care taken in preparing his books for publication.
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