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Norwegian Wood Paperback – September 12, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 7,545 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1987, when Norwegian Wood was first published in Japan, it promptly sold more than 4 million copies and transformed Haruki Murakami into a pop-culture icon. The horrified author fled his native land for Europe and the United States, returning only in 1995, by which time the celebrity spotlight had found some fresher targets. And now he's finally authorized a translation for the English-speaking audience, turning to the estimable Jay Rubin, who did a fine job with his big-canvas production The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Readers of Murakami's later work will discover an affecting if atypical novel, and while the author himself has denied the book's autobiographical import--"If I had simply written the literal truth of my own life, the novel would have been no more than fifteen pages long"--it's hard not to read as at least a partial portrait of the artist as a young man.

Norwegian Wood is a simple coming-of-age tale, primarily set in 1969-70, when the author was attending university. The political upheavals and student strikes of the period form the novel's backdrop. But the focus here is the young Watanabe's love affairs, and the pain and pleasure and attendant losses of growing up. The collapse of a romance (and this is one among many!) leaves him in a metaphysical shambles: I read Naoko's letter again and again, and each time I read it I would be filled with the same unbearable sadness I used to feel whenever Naoko stared into my eyes. I had no way to deal with it, no place I could take it to or hide it away. Like the wind passing over my body, it had neither shape nor weight, nor could I wrap myself in it. This account of a young man's sentimental education sometimes reads like a cross between Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and Stephen Vizinczey's In Praise of Older Women. It is less complex and perhaps ultimately less satisfying than Murakami's other, more allegorical work. Still, Norwegian Wood captures the huge expectation of youth--and of this particular time in history--for the future and for the place of love in it. It is also a work saturated with sadness, an emotion that can sometimes cripple a novel but which here merely underscores its youthful poignancy. --Mark Thwaite

From Publishers Weekly

In a complete stylistic departure from his mysterious and surreal novels (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle; A Wild Sheep Chase) that show the influences of Salinger, Fitzgerald and Tom Robbins, Murakami tells a bittersweet coming-of-age story, reminiscent of J.R. Salamanca's classic 1964 novel, LilithAthe tale of a young man's involvement with a schizophrenic girl. A successful, 37-year-old businessman, Toru Watanabe, hears a version of the Beatles' Norwegian Wood, and the music transports him back 18 years to his college days. His best friend, Kizuki, inexplicably commits suicide, after which Toru becomes first enamored, then involved with Kizuki's girlfriend, Naoko. But Naoko is a very troubled young woman; her brilliant older sister has also committed suicide, and though sweet and desperate for happiness, she often becomes untethered. She eventually enters a convalescent home for disturbed people, and when Toru visits her, he meets her roommate, an older musician named Reiko, who's had a long history of mental instability. The three become fast friends. Toru makes a commitment to Naoko, but back at college he encounters Midori, a vibrant, outgoing young woman. As he falls in love with her, Toru realizes he cannot continue his relationship with Naoko, whose sanity is fast deteriorating. Though the solution to his problem comes too easily, Murakami tells a subtle, charming, profound and very sexy story of young love bound for tragedy. Published in Japan in 1987, this novel proved a wild success there, selling four million copies. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group; First Paperback Edition (September 12, 2000)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 298 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0375704027
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0375704024
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 790L
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 8 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.19 x 0.69 x 8 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,545 ratings

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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5
7,545 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

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Top reviews from other countries

Garg Ankit
5.0 out of 5 stars A very depressing read, but a good one nonetheless
Reviewed in India on December 2, 2018
257 people found this helpful
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Shell
4.0 out of 5 stars The story will stay with me for a long time to come
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 8, 2019
55 people found this helpful
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Rebecca
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 27, 2021
32 people found this helpful
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Atul Kumar Singh
4.0 out of 5 stars Pick this one, if you wish to experience the gloomy feeling of sorrow
Reviewed in India on March 5, 2019
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Atul Kumar Singh
4.0 out of 5 stars Pick this one, if you wish to experience the gloomy feeling of sorrow
Reviewed in India on March 5, 2019
‘Norwegian Wood’ is a beautifully crafted and incredibly sensual story of the unfulfilled longing of love, where mostly all characters are broken individuals, broken from inside in some way or the other. The complete story is written in a flashback which starts with our protagonist ‘Toru Watanabe’ catching the melody of Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’ on a flight, and he starts remembering his youth spent in Tokyo. The storyline revolves mostly around three central characters - Toru, Naoko, Midori.

In this novel, Haruki Murakami has also touched upon the ‘Japanese’ experience of transitioning into adulthood during the years 1968 to 1970 through the eyes of Toru. The transition itself has been shown to be stressful and challenging, as evident through multiple suicides showcased in the book. The feeling of reading ‘Norwegian Wood’ is like that of being in a blank, dreamy world, which is very similar to most of Murakami’s work, although there’s no magical realism here. This is very much a story set in the real world, with rational events happening.

If I have to pick a core theme of the book, I would say it’s ‘Sadness’ or ‘Sorrow’, which indeed is a complicated emotion. It has an ability to immerse you completely in an alternate reality, where nothing else matters. Murakami’s work would make you feel this sorrow which is evident throughout the book, through various characters, but most precisely through the protagonist and Naoko.

It would not be right to summarize the plot here, as it won’t do justice to this beautiful piece of work. The book is more of an emotion, a feeling that you need to feel, as you read it.

Like some of the other works of Murakami, this one too has an open ending, which can be interpreted in various ways by the readers. It is also confusing and frustrating to know that there is no definite end to the story, and as a reader, I was left longing for more, for a definite ending.

Please go ahead and pick this one, you won’t be disappointed. I would rate it 4/5, not a complete 5,, becausere fond of definite endings. :)
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Piers Rowlandson
4.0 out of 5 stars A universal and timeless coming of age novel that is essentially Japanese at the same time.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 18, 2020
7 people found this helpful
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