Review: Norwegian Wood (1987) – Haruki Murakami
After racing through Books One, Two and Three of Murakami’s 1Q84, I was excited to read more of his work, and decided to go back to his best known novel, Norwegian Wood.
I found the novel readable and less dense than 1Q84 and, of course, it is substantially shorter. But I did find that it lacked emotional substance. One of the exceptions was the narration of the scene between Reiko and her music student (pp. 202-206), which, whilst being very disturbing, was incredibly well written and thought provoking.
I found the characterisation of the female characters concerning. Toru became attracted to every female character. Naoko felt like the romanticised, sick, skinny (to emphasise her fragility) and beautiful girl who needs saving. Midori was hypersexual and painfully quirky/edgy.
When I reached the last chapter of the book I had to read yet another sex scene, this time with a woman 19 years Toru’s senior. She had previously been described in purely non-sexual terms so I didn’t see it coming. I found reading this section uncomfortable (I was on the tube at the time too, which didn’t help). ‘With my finger in her “wrinkle”, I moved my lips up her neck to her ear and took a nipple in my fingers’ (p. 383). ‘Altogether, we joined our bodies four times that night’ (p. 384). Come on.
The repeated guitar playing and listing of every song that Reiko played became boring and tiresome. I actually found Reiko quite irritating as she was always around and getting involved in everything.
I appreciate that this is one of Murakami’s earlier works, therefore it is natural that it feels less refined and complex. I think the first person narrative may also contribute to this.
Despite my rating and opinions, I would say that Norwegian Wood is definitely worth a read if you are dipping into the world of Murakami, perhaps not as the first book that you read, but a second or third. I know that many people do think that it is a brilliant novel.
Rating: 2.5/5 ⭐️ #bookreview #bookstagram #murakami #norwegianwood