Book Review – Norwegian Wood

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I once had a girl or should I say she once had me…

Sorry, sorry, I’m getting carried away!

When 2017 started, a very important question popped into my head: what’s going to be my first book of the year? I looked at my shelves, and found a book that I bought a year ago and have since been meaning to read: Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. A Japanese book based on a Beatles song? I had to read it. Plus, I had heard many people saying it’s a great book, so I could not help but give it a try.

What do I think about it? It may very well be one of the finest books I have ever read.

But don’t stand there, just sit anywhere…

First of all, I should mention that I had never read a Murakami book before. That shouldn’t be a problem, since apparently this is an exceptional book that doesn’t quite follow the typical Murakami structure.

Norwegian Wood tells the story of Toru Watanabe during his first years of university. Growing up, he was best friends with Kizuki and his girlfriend Naoko. The three of them did everything together, and could not stand being separate from each other. That is, until the day Kizuki committed suicide.

Deciding that he needed to run away, Toru moved to study at Tokyo University. There he will encounter Naoko, who is also struggling with his boyfriend’s death. Unstable and depressed, she asks for Toru’s company, but most of what they do is walk throughout the city without a destination.

Toru, little by little, falls in love with Naoko, and on the day of her twentieth birthday, they make love. All she can do afterwards, however, is cry and stay silent. After that day, she disappears completely, and it’s only after a while that she sends a letter to Toru telling him that she’s moving to a sanatorium on the mountains of Kyoto to deal with her issues, which go much further than he knows.

Toru is confused and worried about the woman he loves. He wanders through Tokyo alone, like a ghost. But during one of these lonely treks, he meets Midori, an energetic and extremely curious girl who, despite having her own share of suffering, wants to enjoy everything life has to offer.

From this moment on, Toru will walk on the line between life and death as he cares for both Naoko and Midori, unaware of the fact that his own well-being depends on them.

Norwegian Wood is so much more than its plot. The way every situation is presented, every setting described, it made me feel at peace. This is one of the rare books I have read while enjoying every passage, while just taking it all in rather than rush to discover what’s going to happen next. It feels like you’re really living life through Toru’s life. You get a real feel for what Japanese life was in the 60s and 70s as you follow him on his strolls both throughout nature and the many bars of the capital.

Although the movie adaptation doesn’t pay a lot of attention to them, I feel what really brought the book to life were the background characters, mainly Storm Trooper and Nagasawa. The former is a really funny though somewhat tragic figure, whereas the latter is a piece of scum whose only redeeming quality is his interesting outlook on art.

All in all, I’d have to say Norwegian Wood is one of the books I have enjoyed the most, ever. I can’t recommend it enough—and I believe my fellow writer Nadia King will agree with me on this 🙂 if you haven’t yet, do give it a read! And if you have, let me know what you thought!

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17 thoughts on “Book Review – Norwegian Wood

  1. Great review. I’ve read a few of Murakami’s books and I love him…wind up bird chronicles is my fave. This one though, I’ve not read but really enjoyed the film, but your review makes me want to read it…the minor characters would definitely give the story the murakami feel that the movie didnt quite capture.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I liked the movie, but it’s nowhere near as good as the book. It feels like such a cliché, but in this case it’s true! There are so many more layers, the story is so much more intense and deeper… if you can, I would definitely recommend to give it a read 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I love Murakami’s work and this review bumps Norwegian Wood right up my reading list. I really enjoyed Pinball last year, it was a fantastic read about those moments in our early 20s when we are trying to figure out who we are. All of his books are like ‘comfort reads’ and I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Japan to enjoy these books at an even higher level. His books perfectly capture the tone and personality of his country.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. This has been on my shelves for a while too. I’ve read many other Murakami books but always avoided this one because it’s got so much popularity! despite the fact that I hear this his other books are way better so if you liked this so much I cannot wait to see what you think of his other reads.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. If you want to read a nonfiction tale about the culture please consider “The Six-Foot Bonsai.” It is the story of a young American who wanted more than anything to become Japanese. The results are tragic but there is redemption in the end. I hope you don’t mind my shameless plug.

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  4. Love this review, you’re making me want to to read this even more! I’ve read a most stories in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman and I really like that too! The way Murakami writes is just so immersive.

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