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Norwegian Wood Paperback – September 12, 2000
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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
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Having just finished the book, I'm at a bit of a loss for what to say about it. It is about love, death, youth, friendship, and ultimately, how fragile and delicate humans are, and how much we seek protection from this fragility in the arms of others or in our own private prisons. Toru Watanabe, the protagonist, locks himself in a prison of solitude, which he eventually escapes, with difficulty, only through the death of a close friend/lover and the realization that he is basically alone in the world. This realization forces him to come to terms with his feelings for a woman who challenges his cold side while simultaneously acknowledging his softer side via her own need for companionship, understanding, and love.
There are many deaths in this book, although they take place somewhat at the outskirts of the other action. The deaths act as catalysts for characters to learn, grow, change, or in some cases, retreat, wither, and become isolated. It is this constant interplay between retreat and advancement, withering and growth, isolation and togetherness, which seems to be a theme of this novel, and a central struggle each and every one of its characters must face. In that respect, Murakami has hit on a central struggle for all humans: intimacy vs. independence.
It's Murakami's amazingly poetic writing, his evocative, sensual observations, and the way he renders characters so complex with the simplest of language and details that makes this novel so memorable.Read more ›
In reviews and on websites, I had read over and over about Norwegian Wood, the "straightforward" novel that was published years ago in Japan, which still was not for sale in the states, since there was not an authorized translation available. This novel sold a HUGE number of copies in Japan. I was wondering: I love those other novels by Murakami. Are they so demanding? Complicated? If Norwegian Wood is so much simpler than the other novels, will I even like Norwegian Wood?
The plot: It's the late 1960's. College student Toru falls in love with the girlfriend of his (dead) best friend. She eventually becomes ill (though not physically ill) and has to leave to live under special circumstances, far away from him. While she's gone, he meets Midori, a college student who obviously is interested in him. But he's holding out for his girlfriend Naoko. Never knowing if she will recover from her ailment and be able to rejoin him in society, he goes to classes, sells phonograph records at night, and spends some time with Midori. He visits Naoko a few times, gets to know her wacky roommate/friend/mentor Reiki, and eventually he has to decide between a life with Naoko (without Naoko?) or with Midori. Throw in a bizarre Geography-major roommate nicknamed "Storm Trooper," a scene where Midori (badly) sings folk songs to our Toru while they watch a neighborhood fire from the balcony above her parents' bookshop, and assorted other hilarious/bizarre characters and passages, and you've got vintage Haruki Murakami.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great writing, you could experience his feelings of despair and love first hand. It gave you a glimpse of a person's and their loved ones' struggle with mental illness and suicide... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Trudy Emmrich
This may be my new favorite author. Thought this was going to be sci fit like the first of his books I read but was about relationship choices. Beautiful writing.Published 8 days ago by Steve
Maybe this is not the best book to read during beautiful summer days. This is my first book by Haruki Murakami and I am not eager to try any more of them. Read morePublished 19 days ago by SassyPants
Murakami did an excellent job, his characters and story line were so well crafted that it seemed like I could be reading an autobiography. Read morePublished 22 days ago by Harvey James Smith
Unexpected and unlike many other books - a must read if you are looking for something differentPublished 29 days ago by Amazon Customer
I found this book to be a coming of age story. Murakami's characters are portrayed with great depth and color. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Harrison Cook