Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Review of Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Norwegian WoodThis is a slightly odd book to characterise – on the one hand it’s a sappy romance, on the other it’s a melancholy study of loneliness and suicide.

It begins in its future, with the narrator, Toru, hearing the Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’ on a plane and then looking back to his teenage years at the end of the sixties and his strange, desperate relationship with Naoko a girl damaged by the suicide of her boyfriend, Toru’s best – indeed only – friend. The two of them form a gentle, distant companionship. Naoko seems almost angelic in her beauty and unreachableness.

Along the way he meets Reiko, another woman damaged by a relationship, and Midori, a profane counterpart of the unearthly Naoko, who tells him about her sexual fantasies and persuades him to take her to a porn film – the dirtiest they can find. The honesty of the latter is thrown into some doubt in the reader’s mind by the unconnected revelations of the former.

The writing has the same open simplicity of the other Murakami book I’ve read, Kafka on the Shore, but Norwegian Wood‘s text isn’t quite so bland (not that that was a bad thing in Kafka), and perhaps slightly more American (the two books have different translators). It also has no fantasy elements (except perhaps one brief interlude), which is apparently a Murakami hallmark. According to translator Jay Rubin’s afterword, this novel is the author’s attempt to write the kind of fiction he’d previously shunned.

The end of the novel is ambiguous, and doesn’t return to the narrative timeframe established at the outset, so it’s difficult to tell whether Toru lived happily ever after with … well, with someone, or whether the solitary nature of his youth hardens into something more permanent.

I found the opening section of the book a little on the sappy, tedious side, but as it progressed the story become more engrossing. In some respects it was quite a simple story, but it touched on some pretty deep issues and never offered any simplistic theses. The plot arc had a certain inevitability and circularity to it, and I think this gave it its increasing readability. A pleasure to read, even if I’ve never heard this ‘Norwegian Wood’ song.

Categories: Literature, Reviews
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: