Rating: 3/5 stars.
Norwegian Wood is unlike any book I’ve read. It tells the story of Toru, a quiet and uncouth college student who is in love with Naoko, a beautiful and withdrawn woman. Their relationship is ensconced by their best friend’s death that took place a few years prior to the beginning of this novel, and because of that Naoko retreats further and further away from Toru. He finds solace in Midori, a sexually passionate and powerfully independent individual, though he knows his feelings for both of them cannot be contained forever.
This is, I think, the first work of fiction I’ve read that features a protagonist studying at college. The uniqueness of the setting struck me, and there were several poignant themes that ran throughout the novel that: Toru’s coming of age, the romance/love triangle/sexuality, suicide, etc. Though my reading of the novel may have been a bit fragmented due to my schoolwork, I can see why one of my good friends recommended it to me despite the fact that she had not yet read it herself – right from reading book jacket, you can tell that Norwegian Wood is going to be something different.
And it was. However, not everything about the book had me blowing up in delight. The writing, while pretty, did not captivate me – I don’t know if it was because of the translation, but irrespective, I did not feel any force behind Murakami’s words beyond what they literally meant. The plot, while intriguing, did not pull me into the story and the characters as much as I would have liked, and by the end I didn’t suffer from any severe emotional impact – something that I do take delight in doing.
Recommended to those looking for an abstract, abnormal coming of age story. I must warn you now that there is a lot of sex. It’s somewhat graphic but shouldn’t be an issue in terms of one’s enjoyment of the story – just don’t give this to your nine-year-old niece as a birthday present.