Murakami writes with such poetry and enticing perversity in this tonally sombre book, published in 1987. Toru Watanabe, the protagonist, hears the song Norwegian Wood by the Beatles aboard a flight and is instantly transported back to his disillusioned youth after his best friend, Kizuki committed suicide leaving Toru and Kizuki’s girlfriend, Naoko mutually bereaved, the grief of which somehow sexually gravitates them to one another.
Norwegian Wood is contextually aware in its allusion to suicide. The pressure to be an exceptional student, attend a prestigious university and follow the linear path of social acceptableness is such that many people in Japan feel driven to such a tragic end. Toru stands out in this respect. He goes to university but doesn’t care much for his studies and casually sleeps with girls alongside his egotistical friend. This redeems his otherwise bland personage for me, by giving his character a sense of novelty.
The narrative is written retrospectively and employs the use of motifs to signify a sense of loss and foreboding amongst many of the characters, the most marked example of this being the song Norwegian Wood, it’s rustic strum synonymous of a loss of innocence.
The pacing of the plot is slow as it primarily relies on its interesting characters and their shared disillusionment to drive the story. The writing can be graphic at times, especially in the permissive way is talks about sex. I enjoyed this seasoned use of eroticism, it was as strangely alluring as it was perverse and added weight to the story’s darker themes.
The story was ruined a bit for me by Midori, whose enigmatic character was a bit annoying and irrational at times. But despite her unlikable character, I could still appreciate her affinity towards Toru because of the sense of loss they both share and the way they offset this pain through sexual wantonness. However, she contributes little to the story. If her character had less eccentricity and there was more of a romantic attraction between her and Toru, it would’ve given her character a greater sense of purpose.
Overall Norwegian Wood was a very interesting read but it wasn’t outstanding. I deem it to be the perfect bathtub read for all you bathtub readers out there and so I rate Norwegian Wood..
Who else loves a bath time read with a glass of red and scented candles? Let’s share recommendations in the comments!
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