Norwegian Wood

by Charlotte Reads Classics

Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami

This is a very melancholic coming of age story. The main character Toru falls in love with his (deceased) best friend’s girlfriend who leaves University to go to a sanatorium. While she is there, he befriends another girl causing complications in his feelings. A simple love story, that you’ve heard time and time again. Yes? NO! Murakami makes this age old conundrum his own, using a sense of overriding sadness to make things poignant and beautiful rather than empty. There is quite a cast of characters, and the detail of their quirks was one of my favourite things about the book. When I finished I asked myself whether I liked the main character, as it turned out I hadn’t put much thought into that while reading. In fact, I really really do. He is a great narrator, very human and very sympathetic. This is a nostalgic book, and deals with death and the past in exactly the two adjectives I just used!

The setting did have a more confusing impact on me than expected: take away the Japanese names and places and I might have had to check where I was reading about. Perhaps because Toru is interested in Western culture (and literature!) or perhaps because there was a vague listlessness and rebellion in many other countries at this time… I just thought I would get a more concrete sense of ‘Japan’, but maybe I’m incorrectly expecting stereotype and generally just have no idea about Japan in the late sixties.

I am intrigued by claims that Norwegian Wood is different to Murakami’s other novels, which shocked fans when the book was originally released. So I’d like to try another one. I am leaning towards making The Wind Up Bird Chronicle the next Murakami adventure because the note in the back of my book describes it as “wrestling with Japan’s dark past”.