Book Review

Book Review: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Hi guys! This is my first book review blog post, hope you’ll like it. I decided to write book reviews because it’s a good way to summarize the story as well as introduce to you books that I read. Do drop me book recommendations under comments! 🙂

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami is a story written in the male protagonist, Toru’s perspective in post war Japan about how he deals with loss and love.

Norwegian Wood is definitely not just another predictable romance story. Written in the perspective of the male protaganist, it’s likely a book that boys can appreciate better than girls. I find the male perspective to be interesting, to see the world through a male’s eyes. Girls might appreciate the book as it provides a peek into the minds of boys.

The story is sensual and provocative. Many times I find myself reading through salacious scenes on the train, looking up to check that people are not reading what I’m reading. The sensual scenes are not written like those run-of-the-mill B-grade novels that is filled with tawdry descriptions but rather it is written with literary flair, in an innocent and beautiful light.

I like that the book touches on issues on death, sickness, mental illness as the main themes of the story. Issues that are very intimate, personal and real and rarely the core themes of a romance story. Perhaps that is why this book creates an impact all around the world from decades ago till today.

The story is very much anchored in post modern mentality where there is no judgement on the characters, no matter what actions they take. No matter the severity of the action, it is treated in a matter-of-fact manner, like just a phase of life. The story doesn’t delve into the reasons for Toru’s best friend, Kizuki’s death. In fact the reason is unknown. Perhaps it’s due to Kizuki’s girlfriend, Naoko’s illness but perhaps Naoko’s illness is perpetuated by Kizuki’s death. Neither does the story justify or makes judgement on Toru and his friend, Nagasawa’s philandering ways.

The story is believable in all points except for Naoko’s “retreat” somewhere far out in the countryside. Perhaps the physical retreat, an “asylum” of sorts for the people is meant to be a metaphor of mental escapism for burdened and worn out city-dwellers. Maybe it’s something that really exists in the Japanese culture but it definitely comes across as queer and fantastical, which does not fit well with the story.

Set in a post-war Japan, the entangled romance and friendships between characters are intertwined with patriotic or pseudo-patriotic protests in Toru’s college. The story conveys the very sense of loss, helplessness and acceptance of tragedies experienced by Japanese in the post-war era.

The book is not a favourite for me but it’s definitely a good book for anyone looking for something light to read. It would definitely appeal to anyone who has interest in the Japanese culture. 🙂

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