On Norwegian Wood

No, not a Beatles post. This is, instead, a review of a fantastic novel inspired by my four favorite musical men John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

We all know Haruki Murakami is an extremely skilled literary superstar. With Norwegian Wood we get more of the stunning storytelling and idyllic imagery that this Japanese author is so skilled in and beloved for delivering.

Toru Watanabe is a student based in Tokyo whose complicated relationships with women constitute the stuff of this book. Toru idealizes Naoko as his true love, a girl who dated his best friend Kizuki until the latter committed suicide at the age of 17. Underpinning their bond are feelings of loss over Kizuki, a darkness that only grows as Naoko grows increasingly unsettled in the world. Though Toru shares similar feelings of discomfort and isolation in the world, he proves better at handling his loneliness and sadness than Naoko who eventually leaves school to seek psychological help. Meanwhile Toru meets dynamic Midori who he finds himself drawn to despite the strength of his commitment to faraway Naoko.

This love-triangle of sorts is set amidst the backdrop of 1970’s Tokyo. Complete with the music and revolutionary zeal of that time, Norwegian Wood chronicles one man’s solitary attempt to gain his footing in a time when society is trying to do the same. With all the pull, romanticism, and beauty of the song which is it’s namesake, this novel gracefully tells a trademark Murakami coming-of-age story, replete with remarkably graphic characters, both big and small, that you can’t help but feel for (in particular, Naoko’s brilliantly drawn friend Reiko).

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