Melody's Reviews > Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
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's review
Apr 02, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: japanese, audiobook
Recommended to Melody by: Koko
Read in April, 2008

** spoiler alert ** There is so much to think about with this book. Of course there’s the Beatles’ song, Norwegian Wood, which seems to be about a guy who meets a girl and bides his time with her, thinking they are going to go to bed together, but then she tells him, nope – I’ve got to work in the morning. Then in the morning, there he is with his “wood” and the girl is gone – so he has to start his own fire (masturbate?)”
Anyway that’s my interpretation of the song which does match this story superficially. But there is much more going on. We’ve got the strange world of Tokyo youth – the explicit discussion of sex – yet they refer to sex as “sleeping together” or “doing it” and refer to their penis and vagina as “down there” – yet they’ll go to porno shows together and discuss tying each other up and analyzing the amount of semen produced or how wet they’re getting. All this AFTER they’ve gotten their bottle of sake from the corner vending machine and while smoking their 17th Marlboro cigarette and drinking their 5th Tom Collins while planning on checking into a “Love Hotel”. “It’s true!” And then – and here is the reason for the spoiler alert – there are 4 suicides and 1 probably additional suicide (Storm Trooper)! This is all in Toru’s small circle of friends. And the girls will turn on you in an instant if you don’t notice that they have changed their hair style.

A very interesting read after reading “Searching for Alaska” which was not a very well written book, had poorly developed characters, a stalled plot – but was about a very similar situation: Teenagers trying to deal with the death – or the suicide - of a very close friend of theirs while trying to figure out what they want in life and how to go about getting it and, oh by the way, do you think we did anything to cause Alaska to die? Norwegian Wood also deals with this – how Toru and Naoko deal with the death of their best friend, Kizuki and their attraction for one another. They don’t ever seem to think they played a part in his death, but rather spend their time trying to decide if they are going to follow him into death or if they are going to learn how to live.

Murakami writes about the Ami Hostel in almost the style of magical realism. It seems to be a mental hospital, but like Hotel California, you can check in, but you can never leave. It’s hard, if not impossible to tell the doctors from the patients and there is no treatment that takes place. And Reiko is like a little imperfect guardian angel. Her story is so sad and strange. But she tries to protect both Watanabe and Naoko.

And where are these kids’ parents? We get tiny, almost Charlie Brown kind of glimpses of them along the way. I know most of this is taking place after they are in college, but they are all going through some pretty intense stuff and you think they might just pop up now and again (we do hear of Naoko’s mother once, towards the end). Maybe they’re all in Uruguay. And who’s paying for all this stuff?

I know, it probably sounds like I didn’t like it, but I loved it. There is so much to think about. But I do kind of feel like Watanabe at the end:

“Where was I now? I had no idea. No idea at all. Where was this place? All that flashed into my eyes were the countless shapes of people walking by to nowhere.”
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message 1: by Ben (last edited Feb 23, 2009 08:03AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Melody, you brought up some points I didn't even think of, in this.

******SPOILER COMING BELOW SPOILER*******************

First off, the song Norweigan Wood: I had no idea it was about that! Very interesting. Secondly, it never even crossed my mind that storm trooper may have committed suicide, but you're right; quite possible! I guess it's another one of those open air mysteries involved with the book (like it's ending).

I think everything came together just right for Murakami's desired affects, except for one part: I didn't really like that Watanabe slept with Reiko; it was somewhat beautiful, but a bit tacked on and borderline morally wrong, in my opinion.

Oh, what a sad book, but it was powerful... Great point at the end of your review too -- I think that was the perfect ending, because growing up, and life in general, is like that; a bit of a mystery; the future is unknown. Great review!

Melody Thanks Ben.

One thing I didn't add - but should have is how that quote reminds me of another Beatle's song Nowhere Man. Murakami is definitely a Beatles fan.

message 3: by Georgie (new)

Georgie Hi
It's been a while since i have read Norwegian Wood and i am slightly confused on who actually commited suicide? I can only think if 2! Its been driving me crazy if anyone can let me know it would be great. x

Melody Kizuki, Hatsumi, Naoko's sister, Naoko and probably Storm Trooper

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