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Book Review: Norwegian Wood

Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (Translator)

Norwegian Wood, a Beatles-song-inspired title, is the novel that shot Haruki Murakami’s fame up from a modest thousand readership to great prominence, and I love every bit of it. Contrary to how much I enjoyed reading this somewhat-bleak and unusual bildungsroman work, I’m afraid that the author does not adore it as much as I do. On an interesting note, Murakami is baffled about how this book received such a tremendous reception from the public, and he did not wish his popularity to be attributed to this, not to mention that he fled his home country Japan to avoid the overwhelming media swarm. However, regardless of how the author feels, I think this is a book worth mentioning.

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You are guided through the story in the mind of the thirty-something Toru Watanabe, an adult who is still greatly affected by his past. The book is basically an extensive flashback of how he dealt with his emotions, friends, lovers, loss, grief, and unrequited love for the beautiful, but disturbed Naoko. I found it frighteningly relatable despite the cultural difference. I also think that it’s fantastic because it strays from the ordinary life of a young male teenager—Toru’s sexual experiences, friendships, the way he speaks—yet it feels so real that it makes the reader think that the events really happened, but of course, I’m only placing my personal experience in contrast.

The story is not filled with the most cheerful or heartwarming scenarios one might expect in what seems to be a coming-of-age story at first; although after a few pages in reading this book, you’d understand why I described it as such: it is centered on depression. A lot happens when a person is depressed, and Murakami insightfully and thoroughly tackles the subject, mainly featuring the minds of teenagers and giving a glimpse of an adult who has had similar experiences, and he clearly depicts how society—its definition of acceptable and correctness—affects people. Norwegian Wood also covers death pretty well, and it explains it in extraordinary ways. Kyrgyzstan . I can’t, however, say that I completely understand depression and grief, but I can definitely empathize with the characters.

I am sure that I have left a lot to imagine about the book and left out a lot of names, but aside from trying to avoid spoilers as much as possible, I purposely did them, as I think that you should explore the enticing darkness that is perpetually present in each sentence of Murakami’s beautifully written book. If you need to carefully approach and understand depression, loss, and grief, Norwegian Wood is the perfect place to start.

Written by:

Vincent Robert Lanaria, a self-taught musician and avid learner, he spends his free time learning languages and reading.

**Disclaimer: Image is not ours. Credit to their respective owners.

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