Lacey's Reviews > Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
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May 27, 09

bookshelves: own, coming-of-age-novels
Read in May, 2009

I cannot figure out whether to fault Murakami for what I did not like about this book, or the translator. In any event, I think this book's biggest faults comes from might be lost in translation. At least, I'm giving Murakami the benefit of the doubt on that one.

It's not that I totally disliked the book. I liked much of it, and I think it had a well suited ending, despite the fact that majority of the story arc seemed a little stagnant getting there. Murakami obviously does a beautiful job of describing things, particularly setting.

In fact, it's the fact that he is so good at description that messes up the book a bit. While the descriptions of places and weather and people around are so vibrant, the characterization of those moving within these settings falls completely flat. I can think of few protagonists more utterly boring, lifeless and uninteresting than Watanabe. And given that many proport this book to be a loose autobiography, I'd like to imagine Murakami would pay himself more respect than creating such a bland protagonist.

Other characters seem more like caricatures than actual people. Midori, for instance, doesn't seem like a real female. Her actions seem driven from a listless place where men seem to THINK women's motives come from, and not from any real place. The one exception is Reiko, whose characterization is clear and fascinating.

If only Murakami had taken the time to make the rest of the characters as interesting as Reiko, and to bring life to the plot with as much ease as he did with Reiko's story arc, this could have been one of my favorite books. Instead, I found myself sort of non-plussed.

This is not to say I wouldn't ever recommend the book. For many people, beautiful prose and solid setting are enough to look over some flaws in character and plot, and those elements really were of the highest quality. I found myself dying to step onto the page and into the mountains of Kyoto. But for me, it just wasn't enough to make a full story, and I suppose thats why I was a bit disappointed.
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05/22/2009 page 137
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