This was my first Murakami and after Ben from Dead End Follies told me Norwegian Wood was a good place to start with this author, I jumped right in. Now I know what all the fuss is about. I enjoyed this novel more than any other book I have read this year. I was worried the novel would be extremely complex, but it's actually quite straightforward and accessible.
Norwegian Wood introduces us to Toru Watanabe, a man who recalls his freshman year of college in Tokyo when he hears The Beatles song Norwegian Wood on a plane; a year filled with complicated relationships and psychological instability, a year he experienced feelings "he would never know again".
On the surface Norwegian Wood is a love story, a very organic one at that. Put simply, Toru is caught between two women; one of his past that remains in his present, and one that can propell him into the future:
I have always loved Naoko, and I still love her. But there is a decisive finality to what exists between Midori and me. It has an irresistible power that is bound to sweep me into the future. What I feel for Naoko is a tremendously quiet and gentle and transparent love, but what I feel for Midori is a wholly different emotion. It stands and walks on its own, living and breathing and throbbing and shaking me to the roots of my being.But it's really much more than just a love story. It's about memory and the memory of love, and how it stays with us even when the one we love is gone. It's about coping with death and sorrow, and understanding life while trying to find your place in this imperfect the world. It's about loneliness and isolation and the innate human desire to form unique relationships.
Sometimes I feel like a caretaker of a museum - a huge empty museum where no one ever comes, and I'm watching over it for no one but myself.A high-five goes to Ben for this one - a remarkably inimitable read.
Publisher: Vintage International, 1987
Translated by Jay Rubin