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Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
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it was amazing
bookshelves: reviewed, alltimefavourites

Book Review: Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood (Vintage, London, 2000)

I have never been good at reading translations. It's always in the back of my mind that what I'm reading is not the piece in its original forms: it is not how the author originally wished it to be presented. I don't know, therefore, whether it is to Murakami or Norwegian Wood's translator Jay Rubin who I should give the credit for keeping me thoroughly engaged with this one.

I immediately connected to Toru, the narrator and protagonist, because he was a university student, a reader, who was 19 and turning 20. Even though the character is in 1960s Japan, so much of the mundane aspects of his every day life were things that I could connect to.

I found the exploration of 'normal' and 'not-normal' incredibly intriguing. Whilst Naoko and Reiko spend most of the novel in a sort of hospital, I never got the impression that they were any more strange than Toru (a self confessed loner), Midori (who has a strange fascination with pornography, and can't cry at her father's funeral), Nagasawa (who doesn't seem to have any real emotions or attachments) or Hatsumi (Nagasawa's long-suffering girlfriend, who comes off as very repressed). Where the difference lies, I think, is that Naoko and Reiko feel unhealthy through their lack of normality, and worry that the way they act, the way they think, hurts others as well as themselves.

Suicide is an issue that runs throughout the novel, and with it (of course) does death. The messages coming through about these things were interesting. It seemed to me that Toru was unsure exactly what death meant to him, except for that 'Death exists, not as the opposite to, but as a part of life.' Looking back at the novel as a whole, I think death is handled in the same sort of way as in the Harry Potter series. (Odd comparison, I know) It has that same questioning nature, and the same raw honesty. It's something I have come to admire in authors when I feel this in their work.

The novel is, more than anything, a coming of age novel about a love triangle. The two relationships work so well that I think as a reader you begin to feel a lot like Toru does: you want him to be with Naoko when she is in the scene, and you want him to be with Midori when she appears. It's not a traditional love triangle I suppose in that the girls do not compete for his heart. They both must just be themselves and see where they end up. It's not a story of epic love and passion, but it's subtle, and seems more real.

The language in which Toru's world and feelings are described is simply gorgeous. I suppose I should credit both Murakami and Rubin here. I guess it's a collaborative effort, in many ways. So many simple sentences just reached out and grabbed me, either for their truth, beauty, wit or oddness.

Overall, this is a fantastic novel that I would recommend to everyone who has experienced (or is still doing so) the rollercoaster ride that is growing up and living without anyone to hold your hand in the best way that you know how.

(Not recommended at all for younger readers, some of the sex scenes and the language is quite graphic, as well as some themes being upsetting. I don't know if I could have read this when I was 16/17 for example, and really understood it.)
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 4, 2007 – Shelved
September 14, 2007 – Shelved as: reviewed
November 12, 2007 – Shelved as: alltimefavourites

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Hydeyuna (new)

Hydeyuna Obviously Norwegian Wood is the greatest book I've ever read. Sometimes I have same think with Haruki about point of view about life. I was felt like became Toru Watanabe when he appears with Reiko at top of the roof XD. I thought Naoko disease bit really looks like Bipolar Disorder ~_~

message 2: by Liz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Liz Beth It's funny that you compared Norwegian Wood to Harry Potter, because after I finished reading it I told someone that I haven't felt this way SINCE reading HP. Haha! Great commentary. :)

message 3: by Nomin (new)

Nomin Tugs I felt same thing with you Kate. I read it in Mongolian and translation was very good and clear as like reading in original. Why the book could translate to another language very good and obvious such as in English and Mongolian etc.. so it means author wrote his book's every detail s very well

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