Review: Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood”

by writereaderly

I don’t know what the fuss is about. The translator points out that this was the novel that shot Murakami to super-stardom in Japan, forcing him into exile to avoid paparazzi living. It was recommended to Bookclub as being not-too-weird and not-too-long: I’m beginning to suspect those factors go against the very principle of a Murakami novel (cf. this illustrative chart).

It’s Tokyo in 1969. Toru is 19, turning 20, in love with his dead best friend’s girl (Naoko) and falling in love with a girl in his drama class (Midori). The novel plods on as Toru drifts from class to class and bed to bed. The women in his life are all kind-of crazy and all kind-of-definitely sleep with him (so generous with their attentions when he needs “relief”!). His best male friend is slightly sociopathic and destined for diplomatic success. Altogether too many young people kill themselves. Toru claims to be looking for his soul but didn’t convince me he had one.

Not recommended: slightly offensive but mostly banal. I’ll read weirder, longer Murakamis on the strength of Sputnik Sweetheart and his roaring reputation, but this one remains unremarkable.

PS Just home from Bookclub, and it was amazing how many different takes the Angels had on this book. MM and I decided a bad book really does provide more food for thought.

Where it came from: Library via Bookclub
Time & manner of reading: One bed-read and one thorough evening+bed-read
Where it went to: Home
Reminds me of: McCarthy’s C, to neither book’s advantage
Who I’d recommend it to:
Also reading: The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene; The Reivers by William Faulkner; Moby Dick by Herman Melville; Working Hot by Mary Fallon