Norwegian Wood

It’s rare that I find a book as compelling, touching and fluid as Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood (as translated by Jay Rubin). It’s not the sort of book I would usually pick from the shelf, but I’m very thankful that my friend Cerra recommended it to me and allowed me to borrow it. Not since House of Leaves have I read such a wonderful book.
The book follows the story of Toru Watanabe, a university student who falls in love with Naoko, the former girlfriend of his best friend, who had committed suicide. Toru’s struggles with loneliness form the core of the narration, as he deals with Naoko’s mental illness, which keeps her in an isolated place where she is aided by peers and doctors. His loyalty, restraint and self are tested through lust, other relationships and his separation from those around him. The addition of Midori, a friend Toru comes to know during his time in Tokyo, adds a dynamic and conflict that are navigated wonderfully and very realistically.
Murakami’s attention to details is a remarkable and rewarding aspect of this novel. Detail never overwhelms the story, but roots it in reality and imbues it with clarity and immersion. While I’ve never visited Japan, and know little about it, envisioning the locations, peoples and inanimate aspects of various events was noticably more fluid than in most other books I have read.
Characters were developed naturally and with empathy. Each of the characters was distinct and had subtle, but real, motivations displayed. Murakami’s portrayal of relationships, especially, resonated with pieces of people I have known, and was very touching because of the universal and distint qualities posessed by each of the characters.
While Norwegian Wood is both a coming-of-age story and a love story, it breaks out of the boundaries those genres provide and stands as an example of the highest quality of literature. The prose form is very accessable, the symbolism deep and the plot rich with realism and a strong sense of beauty. This is an exemplary work, setting a high standard of storytelling. Not only this, but with four million copies sold in Japan alone, this is one of the few wonderful books that has also been able to become a popular success.
I must stress what a pleasure this book was to read. I was moved to tears by several passages, which is an extremely uncommon event for me, and that speaks volumes more than I could muster in this entry. Along with House of Leaves, this is one of a select few books I believe everyone should have the joy of reading.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: