Haruki Murakami is my favourite author and Norwegian Wood is my fav book of the year so far. This book was perfection. From the plot and story-line, to the characters and the writing-style, Murakami did everything perfectly. (I’m ignoring the weird sexual tension that circulated most of the characters, though).
My rating: 4.5/5 stars
The story basically starts with a 21-year old boy, Toru Watanabe, who starts remisncing about his college life and his best friends. From the very start he tells us, that the story is not going to be about him, but rather it is going to be about the girl that he loved, Naoko, who was also his best friend’s girlfriend before he committed suicide. Why his best friend committed suicide isn’t disclosed, but it shows how these two people deal with the aftermath. Naoko goes into super depression because her brother also committed suicide a year before her boyfriend. She is sent to a seclusive institution where she isn’t allowed contact with the outside world for the purpose of her own sanity and health. Meanwhile, Toru, is at college and meets Nagasawa, a very clever, smart student; his girlfriend, Hatsumi and another classmate, Midori, with whom Toru shares a special bond. The entire story outlines how Toru interacts with each person and how other people, his observations and surroundings shapes the person he has become. None of the characters cross paths at any point in the book, and each character has an entire different story-line with Watanabe. Murakami’s prose is very lyrical, complicated and difficult to understand. It is very relatable, because the characters go through different dilemmas and emotions, unable to figure out exactly what’s happening. It’s one of those books which leaves you thinking.
If you go into it deeper, it sets the tone for a highly philosophical darker story-line. It deals with mental issues, human psyche, sexual orientation, life and death and the thin line between loving someone so that they can find themselves and loving someone to find our own self. It’s beautifully written, although some people called it a bit slow.
Each of the character in this book is super-relatable, one way or the other.
Most importantly, I’ve found a character who is a literal image of who I am. Not even kidding, every second that I read more about Midori, I was hit with this sudden realization that she’s exactly like me! The way she speaks, her attitude, her struggles, the way she deals with her emotions; I absolutely love her! I love how bold she is, and especially when she speaks whatever comes to her mind (I swear I’m like that 80% of the time). Thank-you Murakami, for finally giving me a character who is so special to me! (I’m literally just saying how much I love myself loool)
Toru, our protagonist, is Midori’s complete and utter opposite. He is confused about life and is one of those silent, smart types who just think a lot. In a way, he’s like Gatsby and in the text, there are a number of Gatsby references too. At one point, he stares at Naoko’s window and is reminded of how Gatsby stares at the green light at the end of the dock. Nevertheless, I found myself liking Toru because he was an extremely selfless, caring person. Somehow, his inability to figure out things made him seem very real.
Nagasawa, the smart clever friend is a college-like Harvey Spector. His friendship with Toru began on the subject of literature, only. How cool is that! On the contrary, there were a lot of things which I didn’t like about him but after this book, i understood the true meaning of having flaws. Because if a character is ever perfect, it means they are far from reality. Imperfections make it seem so much more believable. Nagasawa was a true asshole, in some ways. He was gifted with utter smartness, wit, money and was fast as well as hardworking. But the way he treated girls or saw them made him a total ass. At one point, even he can’t figure out what the hell’s wrong with him, or maybe he does? More confusion, basically. But isn’t that what people and life really is? A total and utter confusion??? I mean wooahhh, great work Murakami!
“What happens when people open their hearts?” “They get better.”
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
“Not that we were incompatible: we just had nothing to talk about.”
“I’m just sad. You were so nice to me when I was having my problems, but now that you’re having yours, it seems there’s not a thing I can do for you. You’re all locked up in that little world of yours, and when I try knocking on the door, you just sort of look up for a second and go right back inside.