Sunday, October 18, 2009

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Vintage International
Pub. Date: September 2000
Pages: 304
Rating: 4 out 5

Summary: Toru Watanabe is a college student who is in love with Naoko. He and Naoko are bound together by a tragedy - the suicide of Kizuki, Naoko's boyfriend and Toru's best friend. While Naoko slips into severe depression, Toru tries to live his life and meets Midori - a lively, young woman who is a classmate of Toru. They become friends, and he starts developing feelings for her. He soon becomes torn between the Naoko and Midori. Will he choose someone from his past or someone who can be with him in his future?

Review: What an incredible story! I really enjoyed this. Some books take awhile before I find out what the conflict is. Not so with Norwegian Wood. At the very first chapter, I learn that Toru is in love with Naoko yet he can't be with her.

Both Toru and Naoko have a common friend from high school - Kizuki. After he committed suicide, both Toru and Naoko tried to go on with their lives. Toru enrolls at a university in Tokyo and so does Naoko. By doing so, they hope to escape their past and their memories of Kazuki. Each of them cope with their loss their own way.

At first, I thought that Toru was headed in the wrong direction. Well, actually, I didn't agree with his coping mechanism, which was drinking and sleeping with a variety of girls. But I suppose he was living his life like he knows how. Then there's Naoko who eventually decides to seek help with her problems. I thought this was the best way...but the problem was Naoko needed far more help. The cause of her depression was far beyond her boyfriend's suicide.

In the midst of Toru going through grief and depression, he meets Midori. Although sometimes she annoyed me, and she did the craziest things, I actually liked her. Let's just say that Midori gave color to Toru's bleak world. She's like the jalapeno to his nachos. I was really quite entertained by her, and she made me laugh.

Perhaps that's why Toru is drawn to her. Heck, Toru even admitted to himself that he was more fascinated watching Midori than watching a porn film. If that ain't love, then I don't know what is. (Well, I say that for the sake of Toru's point of view.) At the same time, he really can't leave Naoko. Sometimes I got frustrated by him not being able to choose, but in the end I understood that he had to settle things with his past before he could go on with his future.

There were many things I liked about this book. Even at the beginning of the book, I really felt the emotions. Seriously, I almost cried just reading page 9 because of the foreshadowing.

Of course, it really seemed like another love story on the surface. It was more than that. It's a story about living and dying. It's about about grieving and coping. It's about knowing the difference between surviving and truly living by enjoying life.

Recommendation: If you are in the mood to read something with angst, then I would recommend Norwegian Wood.


  1. I just got this book recently, but I'm not quite ready for it. I did enjoy your review though; thanks

  2. Diane, you're welcome. Whatever the reasons may be, I can definitely understand about waiting to read certain books. I do that too. ;)

  3. You reminded me that I want to read this for the RIP IV Challenge as well. I didn't read your review terribly carefully, because I want to come at it without knowing too much, but I love that you recommend it. And, Fall seems like a good time to have a little angst. ;) The weather seems to be feeling that way, anyway.

  4. Hi, Bellezza. Interesting comment about reading angst during fall. I never really thought of it that way. I think I read books based on my mood. Or sometimes if I had enough of angst, I'd pick up something hilarious to read as a pick me up.

  5. It was beautiful, but I was thoroughly depressed after reading this. It was my first Murakami,and after that I decided to space them out to one a year.

  6. Hi, Blooey. Yes, I agree. This is one of the most heartbreaking stories I have read this year.