Book Review: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami ★★★★

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“I would stare at the grains of light suspended in that silent space, struggling to see into my own heart. What did I want? And what did others want from me? But I could never find the answers. Sometimes I would reach out and try to grasp the grains of light, but my fingers touched nothing.”

This book was so simple, yet so powerful at the same time. It was transparent and open, but also layered. This was my first Murakami and I was deeply moved by his way with words, his symbolism, and his knack for making a little love story mean so much more than that. It was also incredibly sad, but so meaningful and poignant. I will 100% be seeking out more of his work. Spoilers below!

I recently finished this novel and honestly I felt like I needed some time to properly digest what I had read, in order to fully understand it and appreciate it. On the surface, this was a coming of age story and a love story wrapped together in one. It touched on some extremely dark topics, however, and was not necessarily a happy story.

It was so honest. Oh my god, I noticed right away that the author has a way of taking a feeling you might have and put it into words so perfectly that you just sit there for a moment and go, “Yes, that’s what I have been trying to convey all along!” I absolutely love that feeling. When I can read a line and it speaks directly to my soul like that, I am an instant admirer. I underlined so many lines in this book! They were just so authentic and relatable, I had to. The narrative here was so open and exposed in a really raw way. It is truly unflinching in how it describes things and people and feelings, how it captures the thoughts and emotions of the characters so well. I really really loved that.

And it did is so effortlessly. You got such a clear picture of the characters, their wants, ambitions, and personalities in such a stark manner. The author does not embellish his writing, really; it is all just laid out for the reader and just as concise as it needs to be. The fact that he can pack so much into his minimalist style makes it powerful and effective.

The concept of grief and death, and how dealing with both can affect your life forever, was touched on very intelligently, and interestingly, here. Naoko and Toru were forever connected by death when their mutual friend (her then boyfriend) committed suicide in high school. Then Reiko and Toru become connected over the death of Naoko, which again, is a suicide. Such acts forever scar and impact the people that experience them. Toru tries to break that cycle, that habit with Midori who is a foil for Naoko. But by not dealing with their grief and their feelings when they were younger, it harms them later in life. This is almost a turning point, as Toru says, with 18-19 being the formative years of one’s life. How they handle everything during that time determines the rest of their lives. Toru survived, but Naoko did not. This entire book is shaped by death. Even minor or side characters mention it or are touched by it. There are at least four suicides discussed int this book. It clings to the characters and weighs them down in varying degrees. Sometimes it drags them down, as well. The book touches on mental stability and how it is such a fine balance, and so very hard to cope with. It notes that someone else’s mental health is not your responsibility and you can’t just wish them better, no matter how much you love them or want them to be okay. It was very powerful.

Not only was this an extremely well written book (And it being translated from Japanese makes that even more impressive!), but it was also such an interesting, unique, nuanced, raw, and hard-hitting discussion. It was very tragic and sad. Poignant. I am definitely a new fan of Murakami after reading this and cannot wait to read more of his work.

I’m still processing…

Thank you all for reading!

Title: Norwegian Wood
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Fiction| Literature | Adult | Cultural – Japanese | Romance | Asian Literature
Publication Date: September 4th, 1987
Page Count: 296 pages
Buy It: Wordery Book Depository

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