Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Cover via Goodreads.

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 It tells the story of Toru, a quiet and uncouth college student who is in love with Naoko, a beautiful and withdrawn woman.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.


Filed under 3 stars, Book Reviews, Books

5 responses to “Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

  1. Nice review! Hows your revision going? Have you got any of your exams out the way yet? 🙂

  2. I should read this book, but I have so many others on my list, too. Eventually, though… Anyway, Murakami has that sort of writing style that is more along the lines of a passive observer recounting a scene (at least, that’s what I recall from reading Kafka on the Shore). The fact that his writing is so detached is probably why I enjoy it, because my writing is kind of like that, too. Of course I’m no critically-acclaimed author, but I enjoy his style because it reminds me of my own.

    His writing isn’t forceful because it seems that he writes in a sort of whimsy that is sort of like… I don’t even know how to explain it but because he deals with supernatural subjects and odd plots, his way of writing is more of the “this is normal, just go with it” rather than “this is completely not supposed to be happening, this is so strange”. And yes, the sex is gratuitous and at times I’m not entirely sure why it’s there.

    You should check out Kafka on the Shore because it deals with fantasy and the supernatural while also delving into a lot of psychological and metaphysical stuff. I liked that in it, Murakami deals with things like trans issues, homelessness, childhood abandonment and other sorts of real-world issues. The way the book is split up between points of views and just the structure of the chapters is also quite interesting.

    • Sorry for responding to this so late, but yes, your remarks about Murakami’s writing style are spot on. Strangely enough I enjoyed Nick Carraway’s passive voice in the Great Gatsby, but here it didn’t do it for me. I have added Kafka on the Shore to my to-read list though, and your recommendation of it does make me want to read it more than I had wanted to originally.

      I really want to read some of your writing! Send me some of your fanfiction or school work sometime. Thanks for reading and commenting. (:

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