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Norwegian Wood [Paperback]

Haruki Murakami
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 May 2000
Toru Watanabe is looking back on the love and passions of his life and trying to make sense of it all. As his first love, Naoko, sinks deeper and deeper into mental despair, he is inexorably pushed to find new meanings and new love to survive.


Product details

  • Paperback: 600 pages
  • Publisher: The Harvill Press; Translated from Japanese edition (18 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860468004
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860468001
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16.6 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

"I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me" "Norwegian Wood" (Lennon/McCartney).

With Norwegian Wood Murakami, best known as the author of off-kilter classics such as the Wind Up Bird Chronicle, A Wild Sheep Chase and Hard Boiled Wonderland, finally achieved widespread acclaim in his native Japan. The novel sold upwards of 4 million copies and forced the author to retreat to Europe, fearful of the expectations accompanying his new-found cult status.

The novel is atypical for Murakami: seemingly autobiographical, in the tradition of many Japanese "I" novels, Norwegian Wood is a simple coming of age tale set, primarily, in 1969/70, the time of Murakami's own university years. The political upheavals and student strikes of the period form the backdrop of the novel but the focus here is the young Watanabe's love affairs and the pain (and pleasure) of growing up with all its attendant losses, (self-)obsessions and crises.

The novel is split into two volumes and beautifully presented here in a "gold" box containing both the green book and the red book. Young Japanese fans became so obsessed with the work that they would dress entirely in one or other colour denoting which volume they most identified with. And the novel is hugely affecting, reading like a cross between Plath's Bell Jar and Vizinczey's In Praise of Older Women, if less complex and ultimately less satisfying than Murakami's other, more allegorical, work. He captures the huge expectation of youth, and of this particular time in history, for the future and for the place of love in it. He also saturates the work with sadness, an emotion that can cripple a novel but which here underscores the poignancy of the work's rather thin subject matter. --Mark Thwaite

Review

'Evocative, entertaining, sexy and funny; but then Murakami is one of the best writers around' --Time Out

'This book is undeniably hip, full of student uprisings, free love, booze and 1960s pop, it's also genuinely emotionally engaging, and describes the highs of adolescence as well as the lows' --Independent on Sunday

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Norwegian Wood, read in 2011 10 April 2011
Format:Paperback
This is the second novel by Haruki Murakami I have read, I moderately enjoyed the first one when I read it a few years ago and it was really the reviews written by other people which drew me to read Norwegian Wood. I found this novel incredibly easy to read, it flowed and made me want to read more but it also made me feel really melancholy. It made me think about my own life quite a lot during the reading of it and afterwards. Strange, when I think how different the world portrayed in the book (I found it highly immersive) seems from my world and how different the people seem from the people I have known. Others may have different feelings about Norwegian Wood but to me it is most heavy with death, there is a fair bit of sex and love and loneliness too but death overrides them all.

The main character Watanabe has little purpose in life, he has many good intentions but his actions are often seen as futile during the course of the novel and when he does have impact on the lives of others he seems quite unaware of it until they spell it out very clearly to him. I find it very easy to relate to him, even when I am reading and thinking 'this is a mistake' or 'you need to...' I just feel very empathetic towards him. I do not dislike any of the characters, I especially like Reiko, despite the fact her life has been a complete mess. Nobody is truly happy in Norwegian Wood but I think the genius of it is the moments when there is happiness, just in the simple things of life, food, music, companionship, work. That felt very true.

The reason I didn't give 5 stars to this novel was entirely personal, I can never fully enjoy anything quite so sad as this.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
There are few living writers I admire, but Murakami is one of them. I think he is hugely skilled author with a unique voice, something sadly lacking in so much modern literary fiction (for want of a better term). Prior to reading Norwegian Wood I had only read Sputnik Sweetheart, but was amazed and enthralled by his story-telling abilities and literary style. I really do believe, from what I've read, that he is one of the few truly talented writers living today. Norwegian Wood, however, was really disappointing. It started, I thought, really well, with great tone, understated atmosphere and insightful writing, but after the first sixty pages or so, just seemed to drag. A good example is his description of his first visit to the hostel/sanatorium to see Naoko. This begins with his journey there - and is a tediously long description lasting pages, with no point at all to what he is writing. It wasn't even that well written. I think that the novel could have done with serious editing to reduce its length, because so much of it consists of pointless descriptive passages, sometimes tipping over into such grinding tedium that I struggled to read them. I am not saying that each and every word or sentence should move a plot forward. I am only saying that, for me, too much of it was boring.

I also thought that much of the dialogue did not ring true. It was as if the characterisation was hollow, with Midori's conversation, for example, feeling false and overly staged. Both the narrator's voice and her's were exactly the same.

Another reviewer here mentioned that this novel wasn't published in the UK until later in Murakami's literary career, despite being written reasonably early on.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars loss and redemption - a great novel 3 Jun 2012
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful novel, which I couldn't put down until it was finished . Murakami has made a quite simple tale magical through the quality of his story telling. This is in many ways a love story, but as always Murakami deals with other aspects of the human condition very movingly. Loneliness, alienation, love, hope and loss are all part of the narrative, with the melancholy of early death a running theme. As one of the characters says, death is part of life and this novel deals with that sensitively and thoughtfully.

Overall, though, this is a very positive story, which inspires the hope of redemption and happiness, despite setbacks and pain along the way.

Genuinely wonderful
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Norwegian Wood 18 Sep 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This author is a recent discovery, but I have already read and enjoyed three of his novels. The characters build slowly but are really well developed during the course of the book. A very 'readable' style. I enjoy the Japanese setting, although it is a country I have never visited. I found there was less of a plot than 1Q84 but it looks more deeply at characters motivations and feelings. It tells of a young man's transition from adolescence to adulthood. I look forward to reading more of Murakami's work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Naoko remembered 11 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback
“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me...
this bird had flown.”
Beatles

Haruki Murakami borrowes his novel title “Norwegian Wood” from the Beatles.

On a cold soggy November day as Toru Wanatabe's flight makes its decent into Hamburg a version of the Beatle's track Norwegian Wood comes through the p.a. system. Thirty-seven-year-old Toru feels a shudder go through him. He remembers his story. Eighteen years have gone by when during a walk Nakao said to him:
"I’d never find my way back. I’d go to pieces and the pieces would be blown away."
The pieces do get blown away but Toru remembers every detail of the sad and strange love story, a story of life and death.

It began as a tale of three close friends Kizuki, his girl friend, Naoko, and Toru who spend much time together. A short time later Kizuki who was good at everything and had everything, it would seem, commits suicide. After this Toru’s and Naoko’s friendship develop into deep love. She is a much-troubled girl and eventually ends up in a sanatorium, Ami Hostel, in the mountains.

Other characters come into Toru’s life too. A fellow university student, Nagasawa, strong, debauched. He leads a charmed life at his university and only reads books by authors dead 30 years with one exception, Fitzgerald. Reiki is Naoko’s interesting room-mate. She is wise, kind, and spends much time learning to play new pieces on her guitar. It is when visiting Naoko in the Santorum that Toru first hears a version of Norwegian Wood played by Reiki. Midori, another strong character, a wild and energetic girl teaches Toru to take life as it comes. Her energy and flirtatiousness and a sense of sexual freedom give much relief to Toru through his troubled times.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I finally got around to reading it and i was not disappointed. It is...
I have read nearly everything written by Murakami, and I have to admit, I was kind of avoiding this one. Read more
Published 4 days ago by John Boy TKD
4.0 out of 5 stars Norwegian wood
Enjoyable but not his best
Published 4 days ago by bronzy935
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible
This is one of my favourite books. Murakami proving that he can write a story in addition to his usual style.
Published 7 days ago by R. Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I love it. I just do.
Published 23 days ago by Pedro Paramo
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book
I love the way this is written. The characters and story are so engaging. One of murakami s best books!
Published 1 month ago by Shaolin
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for first time readers of Murakami
I have been a great fan of Murakami for many years. This book is my favourite. It is all about the psychology and thinking of the writer. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Lavender LSE
1.0 out of 5 stars over complicated
I was unable to finish this book as i found the storyline difficult to follow and slow to develop. I did not connect with the characters
Published 1 month ago by claire1012001
5.0 out of 5 stars a bit different Murakami's book
This one different the the rest of Murakami's books. It's still very good and I like the main character very much.
Published 2 months ago by not happy one
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book
Murakami's semi-autobiographical novel completely blew mw away - one of the best books I have read in the past few years. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
Beautiful book, beautifully written with the perfect balance of description and action. It surprised me how much I loved it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by N. Miles
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