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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Norwegian Wood, read in 2011
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...
Published on 10 April 2011 by Cheshire Kat

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, but I'll be reading more Murakami
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...
Published on 8 Oct 2011 by Peter Sullivan


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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Norwegian Wood, read in 2011, 10 April 2011
By 
Cheshire Kat (Altrincham, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (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. There were also a few lulls in the book when I found it a little hard to stay interested, it definitely will not appeal to anyone who cannot appreciate a slow pace. The positive points of Norwegian Wood are the distinct characters with their frailties and susceptibilities and joys, the nostalgia - I truly felt transported to another time and place, the honesty even when it hurts.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, but I'll be reading more Murakami, 8 Oct 2011
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (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. I suspect this is because the novel isn't anywhere near as good as some of his other novels, and was published on the back on this later success.

One thing I found in this novel is that while I like his straight-forward, almost conversational style, here it just seemed amateurish, and far from beautiful. The contrast with Sputnik Sweetheart is noticeable, with that novel being, for me, almost a masterpiece of understated story-telling. Whereas Norwegian Wood seemed to me basically uninteresting in its style and indeed in its pacing.

I have far from written-off Murakami, and will undoubtedly be reading more of him. I think South of the Border, West of the Sun is next on my list.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Norwegian Wood, 18 Sep 2012
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (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
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (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.

Murakami's characters are fully developed and strong, and strong too is his dialogue. As always he is good at balancing the light and dark side of life. Throughout the story Toru is torn between his loyalty to Naoko and his attraction to others.

This novel like his other novels is deep and philosophical, at times strange but always with a touch of humour. Much of the author's love of Western music, of pop and jazz, comes into play in Norwegian Wood first published in in 1987

Toru’s painful love story is meditative and quiet. Naoko had insisted he remember her in the future, constantly reminded him not to forget her. He remembers.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sorry for arriving late to the party..., 3 Mar 2008
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
I have lived in Japan for nearly a decade, during which time I have read dozens of books ON Japan but very little Japanese Literature. The main reason was that having encountered many incidents of shoddy translation I was waiting to read Japanese Literature in Japanese. Unknowing of this wish, my girlfriend kindly sent me this Vintage edition translated by Jay Rubin and as both a 'courtesy' to her and a way to understand her better I decided to give it a read. What I could not have imagined soon became crystal clear, firstly the translation is EXCELLENT, Rubin has done an outstanding job, and secondly, Murakami, as story teller of the first degree. Sure, this simple narrative is neither original or outstanding structurally, but it is in other numerous regards. Murakami's strength as a story-teller is his ability to suck you in and hold you there - front row seats all the way. As the plot unravels before your eyes you feel you know these characters he has drawn, that you know them far beyond the surface of which you have been told, that you know their inner core and their deepest hopes and fears. Because the writing is not unnecessarily uncomplicated, the pages just race by and this fluidity means you can finish this in three good sittings. All this leaves you feeling with a strange sense, of actually having know these characters - who could forget the lasting images of Storm-trooper, Midori et al., and in the end, a sense of loss when the final page comes around. All in all, an excellent novel and one worth reading whether you have an interest in Japan or not - actually that's an interesting disparity worth highlighting, the fact that people often read 'Asian' literature because they have an interest in Asia, but seldom read American Literature because the have an interest in America... Finally as an addendum, it should be pointed out that the late '60s backdrop that this is 'supposedly' set against, is no more than a piece of cloth hung from the ceiling to obscure the mess behind - this reads as absolute contemporary literature and with the exception of the odd 'Peace' or 'Right-on' it has no visible setting, nor leaves no particular after-taste.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite Novel about Puppy Love, Coming of Age, Death, and Living in the Moment., 6 April 2013
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
I love Murakami's exquisite style. He writes like some of the authors he mentioned in the novel - Truman Capote, Scott F. Fitzgerald, John Updike, and Raymond Chandler. Truman Capote and Breakfast at Tiff's happen to be two of my favourites so I felt immediately drawn to the American narrative style used in Norwegian wood. The emphasis on the indifferent and non-chalant nature of Watanabe's character compares to the way Capote describes the protagonist as a no-name writer. It is fallibility and vulnerability of Watanabe that accentuates the themes of the novel. The whole book is essentially recollections about a teenager at crossroads at a particularly confusing period of life. He procrastinates, and is indifferent about letting life passes him by, amidst university life, casual sex, student uprisings, booze, and pop culture in the 1960s Tokyo. Until two girls Midori and Naoko enter his life and he is forced to choose between them, and in the process confront himself, and make the tumultuous transition from teenage adolescence to early adulthood.

Norwegian wood is filled with inevitability, tragedy, nostalgia, and sadness. But it is its simplicity that showcases Murakami's elegant fictional style. He explores deep themes - the meaning of death, suicidality, cognitive memory, psychiatric illness, love, lost, sexuality, longing, freedom, and personal choice. In many ways this novel is as much about the power of being able to choose, as it is about the love story plot itself. Watanabe is not so much choosing between Midori and Naoko, as he is choosing between hanging on to the past versus the present. This novel is about how to live in the present moment. In this sense the entire novel serves as a continuous, meandering metaphor. I suspect this book is a product of Murakami's meditation and musing on perhaps aspects of his past that may be too personal to write in another form otherwise. An attempt to bring closure to a sad memory. It is an apt study of clinical depression, perhaps psychotic depression, conversion disorder, sociopathy, and their rehabilitative processes. It is interesting that Watanabe chose to hang onto Naoko as long as he did - a girl with that amount of emotional baggage I would have avoided like a plague. Hence to an extent this may be a protracted literary journey to bring something to closure. And on its way Murakami takes us on a thought-provoking ride.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars COMING OF AGE IN A CHANGING JAPAN, 5 Mar 2013
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
This is a stunningly written coming-of-age story, which feels both familiar and exotic. Anyone who's ever tried to cheer up a depressed partner will empathise with its flawed, very ordinary hero. You long for yet another of Murakami's painterly, very Japanese landscape descriptions, yet know that the protagonists won't be able to enjoy the ethereal beauty around them. The old Japan with its repressive education system and chauvinist values is shown to coexist uneasily with the westernised, mutinous spirit of its 60s generation. Those unable to decide whether to withdraw into the country's duty-centred tradition or join its hedonistic rebel youth risk getting squashed. Not a novel to read when you are already in a dark mood, but also not one I am likely to forget.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is Norwegian Wood The Best Way To Get Into Murakami?, 13 Nov 2012
By 
Harry the book monkey (Citizen of the world) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (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. This made me think that it might have been a better choice to begin reading Murakami with an earlier novel.

One thing to mention about the story itself is that many of the characters have lost someone to suicide or illness and this gives a very sad, and I might even say nasty, quality to the story, given the closeness of those who commit suicide to the main characters. Saying that, I would still say that Norwegian Wood was a very good and enjoyable read, the prose flows effortlessly and I was pulled into the story and enjoyed it immensely. I would very happily recommend Norwegian Wood to anyone who likes an engaging read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars masterfully written portrayal of melancholy, 20 Dec 2011
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (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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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What did I miss?, 25 July 2011
By 
The Amazon J (Various, time dependent) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
The further I got into this book, the less I understood what all the plaudits were for. This is 'author in wish fulfilment / fantasy' monologue. His protagonist / fantasy self floats along in his own self-absorbed bubble, stopping only to describe every meal that he eats. How much of a fantasy it is can be seen in the fact that the protagonist manages to sleep with every female character in the novel, except his best friend's girlfriend, who he probably could have also seduced if he hadn't been too busy being maudlin and self-absorbed.
These female 'friends' also enjoy describing sex acts of the past to him in great detail, including - absolutely unbelievably - the 30-something Reiko, who tells our narrator within a day of meeting with him about her shameful lesbian encounter with a 13 year old. This is typical of this book, where all the other characters exist simply to reflect Toru - and even he isn't that well developed - and/or arouse him sexually.
The most interesting elements of the novel don't happen to our narrator and therefore occur before the novel, or offstage, meaning there is little action in the plot, just full compositions of the various letters our protagonist writes whilst wallowing around in his solitary existential state.
It could be argued that the book presents a perfect portrait of a self-absorbed, one track mind, male of a certain age - but that doesn't make it a great read, and neither does it make it a great romance. This is not an awful book, in the sense of it being badly written - it is simply an incredibly dull one that will provide you with no reward for your time spent reading it.
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Norwegian Wood
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Paperback - 2003)
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