'All I did was go to the library to borrow some books'.
On his way home from school, the young narrator of The Strange Library finds himself wondering how taxes were collected in the Ottoman Empire. He pops into the local library to see if it has a book on the subject. This is his first mistake.
Led to a special 'reading room' in a maze under the library by a strange old man, he finds himself imprisoned with only a sheep man, who makes excellent donuts, and a girl, who can talk with her hands, for company. His mother will be worrying why he hasn't returned in time for dinner and the old man seems to have an appetite for eating small boy's brains. How will he escape?
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It starts with a young boy and his solo trip to a local library. As mentioned in the blurb above he's led away to a 'special' room and into a vast cavern of mazes through which there is little to no chance of escape. It's super hard to describe the plot of this book without spoiling it in it's entirety but there's a forboding sense of darkness as you make your way through the pages of surreal happenings and storytelling.
The illustrated version only adds to the mystery and surreal nature of the book. The words on the pages literally meander off in all directions or bloom in large font types, and the imagery used only adds to the slightly Gothic and nightmarish nature of the story.
One thing to remember if you do ever pick up this copy is that the story is very short. The ending feels abrupt and there is little time to flesh out the characters in the space of a couple of pages. What you do get is a great sense of atmosphere and it does help that the hardback edition of the book is beautiful in itself.
If you're fairly new to Murakami I would say this is a great gateway into his 'world' and style of writing. The short burst of story should be enough to wet your appetite to read more of his work.