Book Review: Norwegian Wood

“No truth can cure the sorrow you feel from losing a loved one”

Sad but true!

I have never read a book like this, which is so depressing. The novel is

Norwegian Wood

Photo by writer

about young people who have to deal with vicissitudes of life. It seems that the transition into adulthood seems stressful. It talks about youngsters who fail to make transitions and life takes its toll, forcing them to end their lives.

The story revolves around three main protagonists: Toru Watanabe, Naoko and Midori.

Watanabe was the central character and flipping through the pages of the novel, you come across his emotional tale of growing up, his learning to accept responsibility for his actions and his ability to deal with loss and rejection. He lost his friend Kizuki, who committed suicide in high school. Toru, later on, went to Tokyo to pursue his studies. There he met Naoko (Kizuki’s girlfriend)

Naoko was sensitive and vulnerable, definitely influenced by the people around her. She lost both a sister and her boyfriend Kizuki  as they gave up their lives. Afterwards, she developed a romantic relationship with Toru. However, she knew she has psychological problems, and therefore checked herself into a mountain retreat.

Her letters to Toru was a depiction of sudden enthusiasm of youth, followed by capricious silences and sometimes philosophical musings.

While Toru and Naoko were having a beautiful bond, the complication arouse when Midori stepped in. Midori was the opposite of Naoko, she was outspoken and an optimistic soul. She was audacious to express her fondness for Watanabe.

Delving into Midori’s life, she had her own struggles to face. But she is not a pessimist, and therefore, she refused an easy way out to her struggles. To see her perspective about life, there is one quote which I want to share here:

“You know how they’ve got these cookie assortments, and you like some but you don’t like others? And you eat up all the ones you like, and the only ones left are the ones you don’t like so much? I always think about that when something painful comes up. ‘Now I just have to polish these off, and everything will be OK’. Life is a box of cookies.” 

Other exception was Reiko, an older woman, who became best friend of Naoko in mountain sanatorium. She was the one who gave the kernels of wisdom that Toru gets to keep after all his emotional journey in the novel.

“Death is not the opposite of life but an innate part of life”

The novel is set in Japan in the late 1960s, which were the most politically chaotic period in Japan. Like in USA and Europe, Japan witnessed its share of sexual revolution, radical socialist movements, and anti-Vietnam War protests, etc.

NorwegianThe title of the novel is inspired by The Beatles song ‘Norwegian Wood’. Murakami’s obsession with western classics and music is reflected in the countless references to Beatles numbers like “Yesterday”, “Michelle”, “Something”, Bach, Mozart, Scarlatti and literary works of Joseph Conrad, Fitzgerald, Thomas Mann, Karl Marx and so on.

The novel’s structure looks like reading someone’s personal journal. There are some moments of touching sadness, but that’s all the book is really, just moments of sadness strung together.

This is my first foray to Haruki Murakami’s world, though it is not his best work , however, Murakami’s writing is subtle and beautiful. I am sure that the other book of Murakami (Wind-up Bird Chronicle) in my reading list will be much better than this one.

I rate this novel 4/5

 

 

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