Book Review: Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

“Instead of a stable truth, I choose unstable possibilities.”

The epic new novel from the internationally acclaimed and best-selling author of 1Q84.

In Killing Commendatore, a thirty-something portrait painter in Tokyo is abandoned by his wife and finds himself holed up in the mountain home of a famous artist, Tomohiko Amada. When he discovers a previously unseen painting in the attic, he unintentionally opens a circle of mysterious circumstances. To close it, he must complete a journey that involves a mysterious ringing bell, a two-foot-high physical manifestation of an Idea, a dapper businessman who lives across the valley, a precocious thirteen-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt during World War II in Vienna, a pit in the woods behind the artist’s home, and an underworld haunted by Double Metaphors. A tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art—as well as a loving homage to The Great Gatsby—Killing Commendatore is a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers. (Goodreads)


I have waited years for a new Haruki Murakami book. He is definitely one of my all-time favorite authors. If anyone would ask me which author I would trust to tell the story of my life, I would always say Haruki Murakami. I don’t even have to think about it. So you can just imagine how thrilled I was with news of his new book. I got a copy as soon as it hit the bookstores, and to cut the story short this book ended up as one of my Best Reads of 2018. Okay now you may skip all my ramblings below 🤪

Even the book design itself is a work of art!

“Drawing someone means understanding and interpreting another person. Not with words, but with lines, shapes, and colors.”

This book is clearly a meditation on the power of art in real life. I was too happy to know that we have a painter as a main character this time around. As much as he is familiar and similar to Murakami’s other protagonists, he is also unique in this aspect. I love how Murakami portrayed the unnamed artist and his relationship to his art. I am a wife of an artist myself, and reading a contemplative story about a painter and seeing life through an artist’s perspective has been nothing short of a revelation.

“Paintings are strange things: as they near the end they acquire their own will, their own viewpoint, even their own powers of speech. They tell the artist when they are done.”

It was cool to encounter similar lines from Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. The artist’s road trip on one part of the story was also not unlike that of the one that Toru Watanabe embarked on in Norwegian Wood. The references to war time was well-written but somehow I felt like it’s too Wind Up Bird-ish.

“Nature grants its beauty to us all, drawing no line between rich and poor.”

I expected a Haruki Murakami novel and that’s what I got in Killing Commendatore. There were a lot of references from his previous works, and there is the same sense of a combination of old souls, cooking, classical music, holes in the ground, and lots of Murakami-esque (a.k.a. weird) events. I enjoyed it a lot but it’s definitely not my favorite among his works. I still love his vintage works more: Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and the more recent epic tale of 1Q84.

Most of my Murakami collection!

“My whole life may have been a mistake up till now. I feel that way sometimes. That I took a wrong turn somewhere. That nothing I’ve done has any real meaning.”

That being said, reading Murakami is always a sublime experience. He is still the best in blurring the lines between reality and the supernatural while perfectly capturing the quiet sadness and beauty of human life. As a standalone novel this is still worthy of a perfect score. I am inadequate as to describing the many layers of his literary technique. For me he is a genre of his own, and this book is premium Murakami 👍🏻 I can’t tell you enough to please go and try and read his books if you haven’t already, and I hope one or two speaks to you, too. 🌸

Overall Rating: 5/5⭐️

About the Author

Murakami Haruki (Japanese: 村上 春樹) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as ‘easily accessible, yet profoundly complex’.

Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers by his Western influences.

Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko. His first job was at a record store, which is where one of his main characters, Toru Watanabe in Norwegian Wood, works. Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened the coffeehouse ‘Peter Cat’ which was a jazz bar in the evening in Kokubunji, Tokyo with his wife.

Many of his novels have themes and titles that invoke classical music, such as the three books making up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: The Thieving Magpie (after Rossini’s opera), Bird as Prophet (after a piano piece by Robert Schumann usually known in English as The Prophet Bird), and The Bird-Catcher (a character in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute). Some of his novels take their titles from songs: Dance, Dance, Dance (after The Dells’ song, although it is widely thought it was titled after the Beach Boys tune), Norwegian Wood (after The Beatles’ song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole).

Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play | AbeBooks | Book Depository | Alibris | Better World Books | IndieBound

15 thoughts on “Book Review: Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

    1. I rarely put spoilers on my reviews, but you’re right. Don’t read it yet for I might influence you in some way. Looking forward to your thoughts on the book!


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  2. During undergrad, I had to read some of Haruki Murakami’s books. I still remember how lost I was when reading. “Wait, what does this actually mean?” “Is he hinting at something?” While I don’t remember specifically what I was confused over, I feel his writing style tends to keep you guessing with hidden references or themes.


  3. Thank you for sharing, need to check it out in the bookstore. I don’t know why but so far Murakami hasn’t been one of my favourites (only read the wind up bird chronicles) and although i love complex joycean and other crazy somewhat experimental styles, i couldn’t quite warm to murakami. maybe i need to try again and i just wasn’t in the right mindset for it or something….


    1. Maybe you can try some of his short stories collection? 💖 I love The Elephant Vanishes and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. Norwegian Wood is also his most “normal” work. Haha. But it’s totally fine if Murakami doesn’t work for you. I also have friends that think the same way 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have only read 1Q84, but I loved it so much I am thinking about re-reading it every April. I’m going to read Strange Library next, and then whatever Hoopla has on audio. For some reason I am thinking they have this one already, although it may be the ebook. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one. 👍✨


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