Book review: Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood- Haruki Murakami
 I read my first Murakami around 2009, and I fell in love instantly. I loved the subtle surrealism- not strange enough to venture into science fiction or fantasy- and the beautiful descriptions. I recently returned to Murakami's novels with Dance Dance Dance and had high expectations for this one.

I was not disappointed. Norwegian Wood marks a departure from the surrealism. This tale is a straight up love story, with love triangles, dilemmas and the standard lost-and-confused male protagonist that is becoming a trademark of Murakami's novels as I read more of them. Watanabe is an unusual student, torn between his love for his late best friend's girlfriend and his fondness of a fellow student on his course.
At first, I was confused by the characters. I couldn't understand why Watanabe (somebody who seems to speak perfectly normally to me, despite the repeated references to his odd way of phrasing things- something that I assume has been lost in translation) was so hung up on Naoko. She's still mourning the suicide of her boyfriend- Watanabe's best friend- and is driven to mental illness as she struggles to cope. I almost felt that he was preying on her vulnerability. Compared with Midori, the spunky- yet still vulnerable- student with a penchant for tiny skirts and dirty talk, I couldn't see the attraction. 

I was rooting for Midori through the whole novel. The other main characters- Watanabe, Naoko and Naoko's psychiactric room-mate Reiko- lacked depth for me. They seemed pretty bland and two-dimensional. I could relate to Midori and began to feel quite attached to her. When Watanabe messed her around, I felt angry at him. 
However,  as I dwelled on these apprehensions, I realised that the novel was making me think more deeply about it than most others do. I caught myself mulling over these doubts as I lay in bed at night, as I commuted to work, as I bathed. Perhaps Watanabe was clinging to Naoko in a desperate attempt to feel closer to his best friend? Perhaps Naoko was doing the same in reverse. It forced me to consider the interrelation between love and death: How people cope in the aftermath of death and how unpredictable these reactions are.

The ending swept me up in bittersweet triumph. As sad and desolate as it was, there was a joy and a hope glinting beyond the final paragraph. Another Murakami text that I loved. Now I just need to decide which one to read next. Any recommendations? 


  1. Love Murakami! Have you seen the Murikami Bingo by Grant Snider? It's very well-observed!
    If you haven't read Kafka on the shore, it's definitely worth picking up. I also love The Elephant Vanishes, which is a collection of short stories (including a few with the character Watanabe in them). Let me know how you get on!
    Leanne -x-

    1. That bingo is amazing! As soon as you mentioned it, I thought "There must be ears on there somewhere!" What is his obsession with women's ears? I have read Kafka on the Shore. I've also read Dance Dance Dance, the Wind Up Bird Chronicle and I'm about halfway through 1Q84 at the moment. I'll definitely get The Elephant Vanishes next!

    2. He definitely has a thing for ears. And cats! Sputnik Sweetheart is another great one. I haven't read the Wind Up Bird Chronicle yet. I'm currently obsessing over Neil Gaiman, but I'll get back to Murikami soon, I think. Great blog btw! -x-

  2. It's been over a year since I read this but you've brought it all back! I'm in love with Murakami, honestly. I'd recommend 1Q84 and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, my two favourites! x

    1. Ooh, I'm reading 1Q84 at the moment! The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was the first one I read.

  3. Never heard of these! Sounds pretty interesting tho!!


  4. I'm dying to read 1Q84 :) someone told me though that I should read his books in the order he wrote them as then i'll learn to love and appreciate how he grows and develops as an author - what do you think?

  5. I've never read his books, but they're on my reading list! Which would you recommend to start with?


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