Book Review: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

It has been five days since I finished reading this book. I have been reading captivating short stories by Albert Camus since then. Nevertheless, every time I lie on my bed and close my eyes, snatches of Norwegian Wood come rushing back to me. The book had me completely under its spell for the three days when I was reading it; I carried it everywhere, sneaked out for solo lunches so I could read on, and wished that the otherwise fantastic Raul Midón concert would come to an end, so I could get back home to my book.

Haunting Sadness

What can be a better book than the one that tells a different story to every reader? For I felt that way about Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. To me the book was about different shades of human outlook. But if I read the reviews on line or the synopsis of the motion picture based on this book, others seem to think differently.

The book tells us stories of many people, all from the point of view of Toru Watanabe, the19 year old protagonist. We get to know three very different women, two aged 19 and one aged 37, closely via Toru. We also learn about the lives of some other characters, although not in as much detail. The crux of the entire story of love, loss, struggle to know oneself, and contemplation is to bring out the stark comparison between people’s disposition towards life. At least, that is what the book said to me.

There are four characters aged between 17 and 22 who commit suicide at some point of time in their life. All seemed to have a good thing going for them. They were either good in academics, sports, extra curricular activities, or had a shining personality, loving partner and friends, or were married to a nice guy. But this is all from an outsider’s view. No one knows how they let all this build pressure on them. On the other hand, there are two characters who have a very hard life – chronically ill parents who die one after the other, abusive boyfriend, or lost dreams of being a superstar and estranged from the loving family due to unavoidable circumstances, and they still go on, happily even. They take every day as it comes, try to stay bubbly, and have faith in tomorrow.

The brilliance is reflected in telling such a heavy themed story via simple incidents and mundane life of Toru Watanabe. The book is full of rich characters, each equally thought provoking as the other, and yet they all seem so common that you may have bumped into them at some point in your life. The book also elucidates how easily one can move on in life; one may consider, and truly so, to be never able to unroot some incidents of the past, but when the time comes, emotions change in a snap.

All in all, it is a simple story, simply told with oodles of retrospective and contemplative moments that only hit you when you are finished with the book.

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2 Responses to “Book Review: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami”

  1. This, and Wind-up bird Chronicle are the only two of his work I haven’t read yet. I am inspired to pick NW now.

  2. These Japanese authors are something else, aren’t they? There’s something beautiful about his writing, although I wonder how much of it is lost in translation – or if it simply gets enhanced. Either way, I think the translator’s done a brilliant job, and I can only wish some day to learn Japanese and read the originals…

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