Rating: 4 stars
This is a slight book and, thankfully, not in the same violent vein as In The Miso Soup or Audition. After my initial worry about the tone of 69, with its lazy misogyny, it soon became clear that it was the rites of passage story of an immature boy, posturing with his attitude to women. After a couple more pages, I warmed to the protagonist. Set in the titular year of the university student protests against (among other things) the US using Japan as a military base to support their action in Vietnam, nothing much happens beyond teenage arguments and posturing and attempts to impress girls, but the story of Kensuke and his friends still offered an insight into Japanese youth culture away from the big cities. I could hear the main character’s voice and imagine the events easily, and it made me feel nostalgia for an era that existed before I was born. It reminded me of the British film Submarine and anime like From Up On Poppy Hill and Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope). It was charming, poignant and very different to the other things I’ve read by Ryu Murakami.