Noruwei no mori [Norwegian Wood] (Haruki Murakami)

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (here my review of the movie adaptation)

Toru just started university in Tokyo when he runs into Naoko. Naoko used to be Toru’s best friend Kizuki’s girlfriend but after Kizuki committed suicide, they fell out of touch. Toru and Naoko start hanging out, then sleep together but afterwards, Naoko disappears. After a bit Toru finds out that Naoko is staying at a sanatorium. While she is gone, he meets Midori who is pretty much everything Naoko is not. Even though Toru is completely devoted to Naoko, his friendship with Midori deepens.

Murakami writes wonderful prose and that’s true for this book as well. But it took me pretty long to get into it and in the end the book just didn’t satisfy me.

The book is not very long, but it does take surprisingly long to read. Maybe because it just took a while until I got into the story and the characters. I did get into it in the end, thanks to Reiko who I liked (despite the dubious backstory) and Midori, who is made of win with a topping of awesome sauce. She really is my favorite thing about both the book and the film.

Generally speaking Murakami writes good characters and beautiful prose. Nevertheless I never really got emotionally involved with the general story. I don’t really know why, since I did like Reiko and Midori and even identified with Toru (and Midori) at some points. But I had this emotional distance until the end.

Murakami obviously knows what he’s talking about when he writes about mental illness. It feels like he has some experience with that. I don’t know if that’s true but if it isn’t, he has done some good research at least.

Summarising: Despite the book’s good qualities, something was missing. In the end it was rather meh.

2 thoughts on “Noruwei no mori [Norwegian Wood] (Haruki Murakami)

  1. I think I’ve read this book in German (Naokos Lächeln).

    I pretty much the side-stories in Toru’s campus, where the guys exchange the posters of Sturmbandfuehrer, and how Murakami drwas the asshole character whose name I forgot (the one who learns Spanish and want Toru to “inherit” hist girlfriend).

    I didn’t like either of the female characters. Naoko was so wounded and soft and * yawn* … And Midori? I feel twisted about her. Her character is so winning, ever so joyful and unreflected and tough. I loved her strength and how she treats her old father. :)
    I also liked her hilarious ideas, like saving her bra-money to learn about japanese cuisine…
    But I didn’t like how she catches Toru by being totally girly and understanding and waiting until he feels ready to let go of Naoko.
    I didn’t like the understanding/waiting part of he personality at all.

    • The asshole character was Nagasawa – a character I thought was really cool, despite being such an ass (or maybe because of it).

      I liked that Midori could be at the same time bubbly and strong and a little crazy, but also soft and caring and understanding.

      But I agree with you on Naoko. Her mental illness leaves her with barely any personality at all.

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