Saturday, April 09, 2011

NORWEGIAN WOOD by Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood
By Haruki Murakami
(Author's Website)
Translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin
Publisher: Vintage International
Published: April 2003
ISBN-13: 9780099448822
400 pages

Chapter 1, Page 1:
Once the plane was on the ground, soft music began to flow from the ceiling speakers: a sweet orchestral cover version of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood". The melody never failed to send a shudder through me, but this time it hit me harder than ever.

Frankly, I do not know how to write the review of this book. I loved it very much. It is a straight, simple story, yet its simplicity is beautiful and moving. I did not expect myself to shed tears but cry I did. This is the story of Toru Watanabe set in his student days in Tokyo in the late 1960s.

Toru, Naoko, Midori and Reiko are all very special people. Toru knows Naoko through his best friend, Kizuki, and comes to love her dearly. Midori is someone who walks into Toru's life and he cares very much for her.

No, we weren't lovers, but in a way we had opened ourselves to each other even more deeply than lovers do.
That's who Midori is to Toru (and then more, later).

Reiko is the connection that Toru has through Naoko. Reiko and Naoko both stay at the sanatorium and are completely honest with one another. They tell each other everything and Naoko talks about Toru all the time. Reiko, a resident in the sanatorium for seven years, is very good in music and she helps teach music there even though she is one of the patients. She also plays the guitar and only upon the request of Naoko, plays "Norwegian Wood" (Naoko's favorite song).

Reading the straight-forward unabashed talks about sex, the joining of bodies, strangely brought a whole new... experience (for want of a better word) to me. Unlike those I often read in contemporary romance novels, the adolescent love in this story is so different.

I cannot stop thinking about the characters, felt a deep connection with every one of them, and because I have read a lot about mental illness, this book is special to me. I liked its quiet quality, saddened by its tragedy, but it also has its funny bits. I can still "see" the story when I close my eyes and go to sleep.

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