On hearing a song from his college years, Toru Watanabe, remembers the girl that he first loved, Naoko. She was his best friends girlfriend, but following Kizuki's tragic early death, they have a night of passion and lust. after that she disappears from college and writes to say that she has been admitted to a sanatorium for treatment.
He stumbles around not knowing what to do, and has several one night stands when going out with an associate, Nagasawa, who even though he has a girlfriend, goes out regularly to pick up girls. Having picked himself up he meets Midor, a girls who flirts with him and who he starts to see regularly, but it is a strange relationship, as she is all over him at certain points and then refusing to talk to him at others.
He visits Naoko at the sanatorium, and develops a strong friendship with her roommate. At the end of the book she gives him the strength that he needs to move onto the next stage of his life.
It is set in the late 60's and early 70's in Tokyo. It is a time of transition for the formal Japanese society, and there is tension from student wanting a change from the lives that their parents knew. When Midor suffers a death in her family they still have the formal funeral, but her and her sister refuse to cry as tradition expects.
I liked the way Murakami writes this as a dreamy recollection of the events. Some are remembered as sharp and others are vague. He has good tension in the book between the characters and the way that society is changing but it is quite tragic and sad in parts. But i found some of the characters shallow and occasionally annoying. The writing (or translation) is at times beautiful, but is did not grip me.