I heard about this book reading Patti Smith's book, M Train. And it was her talking about it and describing it that got me interested in reading it. One reviewer describes it as being "dreamlike" and...
I really can't argue with that. It is a book that appears to allow you to enter a bit into Japanese culture as well as entering into a late 20th century Japan coming to grips with their role in the Second World War. It took me a good bit of time to get through it but that was due more to my schedule than with the content of the book. It is a good read.
It took me forever to read it, because (a) it's not a page turner, (b) it's long and (c) a family member got pretty sick and it really cut into my reading time. The novel probably is best described as "literary"--minimal plot, lots of psychological rumination and too much detail of physical environments like rooms and gardens. The central character, Okada, is a loser who takes an older man's advice to go down in a well and just think...it'll do you good. Which is what he does, only the well is in the backyard of an abandoned "hanging house," next to which lives a teenage girl who he becomes friends with (but no affair). Meanwhile, Okada got laid off from his job, had his wife walk out on him, and meets some Japanese veterans of the Manchuria Theater of WWII, when Japan and the Soviet Union fought over godforsaken tundra in northeast Asia. The stories of their war experiences were the best parts of the book. Once in a while, in this strange mass, Murakami rises to memorable observations, such as if humans didn't die, they wouldn't spend so much time thinking; they'd just go on endlessly having a great time with nothing to worry about. If you're into the weird, slightly paranormal, then you'd probably like it despite its length, but if that's not your thing, skip it.