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Norwegian Wood Paperback – 18 May 2000

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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: 16.3 x 2.5 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (258 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 814,774 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


'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

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Cheshire Kat on 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harry the book monkey on 13 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
I was curious to read Murakami and I thought Norwegian Wood, as the book that made Murakami famous on a global scale, would be a good place to start. However, I am not so sure that was a good idea. The translator's note at the back points out that on publication many Murakami readers were disappointed believing that it was a simple love story, the sort of writing Murakami sought to distance himself from when he began publishing. For myself I cannot say I thought it was much of a love story as I couldn't determine if the love element was supposed to be between Toru and Nanoko or Toru and Midori or Toro and Nanoko & Midori (i.e. he loved them both). I thought the book was more akin to existentialist novels such as those of Camus, given the introspection of the lead character Toru Watanabe and his awkward relationship with the world and the people who inhabit it. On that subject, I noticed different ways of connecting to the world are explored by different characters, for example, Toru's friend Nagasawa who is aloof and detached from the world, caring only for his own sense of mastery over the world he inhabits, by perfecting himself through his own work and his belief in his own system. This view of engaging with the world by attempting to master it and yourself is ultimately rejected by Toru who finds that despite his detachment from other people he in fact finds greater solace in other people than he might expect. The translators note also emphasises that the novel has many of the stylistic motifs that can be found in earlier Murakami books, this point was to emphasise that Norwegian Wood was not such a radical departure from earlier writing but as it was my first book I know that I would not be able to appreciate these motifs until I read some more.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By archibaldb on 20 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
It starts as a process of reminiscing a love that was gone, which comes into mind when hearing Norwegian Wood play in the background.

Toru, now an adult, moves the reader through his odd relationship with Naoko, a fragile girl he falls in love with. Their relationship has a sad history, since they knew each-other through Naoko's boyfriend, who committed suicide at 17.

The book is actually full of references to characters who had committed suicide, leaving the reader with an intense sense of sadness and loss, but there is something beautiful about the way in which Murakami manages to guide the reader out of that existential despair and towards hope, new beginnings and the possibility of life after the death of others.

Descriptions of Japanese student halls, taking the subway in Tokyo, visiting Naoko in a modern type of mental institution, secluded in the mountains, all these make the novel a source of new experiences for the Western reader (such as myself), but the feelings depicted are universal, despite their Japanese context, and that is what struck me the most about it: how all those situations, relationship shifts and personal doubts could be applied to people that I know and to my personal history as well.

Beautifully sad, painfully joyous!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Claire P on 18 Sept. 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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