by Haruki Murakami
Paperback Edition, 389 pages
Originally published 1987
“Writing from memory like this, i often feel a pang of dread. What if I’ve forgotten the most important thing? What if somewhere inside me there is a dark limbo where all the truly important memories are heaped and slowly turning into mud…“
The narrator is a bit of a loner, who philosophises on life, death and love and during our time with him meets an array of odd characters. It’s a familiar tale in the fictional world of Murakami.
Toru is aboard a plane when he hears ‘Norwegian Wood’ by The Beatles, which stirs up memories of his 19 year old self when he was a student at University and involved with two girls at different ends of the personality spectrum. There is Naoko, who has been slowly losing her mind since the suicide of her long term boyfriend, who also happened to be Toru’s best friend. She is finding life a depressing affair and spends the majority of the book in an institution. Her complete opposite is Midori, who is overly enthusiastic about everything bordering on maniacal. Toru meets her whilst out on his own and the two strike up a bizarre friendship.
Unlike other books I’ve read by Marakami, Norwegian Wood is straight forward fiction with no elements of fantasy or the supernatural. ‘Kafka on the Shore’ and ‘Killing Commendator’ were marred by weirdness so a normal ‘slice of life’ story was a blessed relief. The main plot is the love triangle between Toru, Naoko and Midori but it is somewhat unconventional. Toru is unable to see Naoko because she had herself committed and Midori’s appearances are sparse depending on her mood, which means Toru spends a lot of time on his own, reflecting on the suicide of his friend, life and death in general and any other subject that causes sadness.
There were times when i felt i could read 100 plus pages in one sitting, which reflects how good Murakami can be. His writing is so interesting and philosophical and unlike any author I’ve read but what let this novel down was the sheer amount of graphic sex. Even though Toru is a bit of a downbeat loner he’s certainly a hit with the ladies and barely has time to put his manhood away before someone else is stroking it. I’ve come to expect sex in Murakami’s books but some of the scenes in Norwegian Wood are borderline ridiculous and after a while i was sick of reading about ‘semen’, ‘breasts’ and how ‘wet she was’. It become a bore.
Norwegian Wood is a good book but due to the sex, most of it unnecessary, i can’t go above 3 stars.
My score is 3/5