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4.1 out of 5 stars299
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on 10 April 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 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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on 18 September 2012
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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on 12 June 2011
Norweigan Wood was the first novel by Haruki Murakami i had the pleasure to read. I received it as a gift after hearing some good things about the author from some close relatives. I did not expect much going in, but what i got was something truly special that thoroughly and deeply touched me in a way few novels manage to do.

I have tried again and again to explain what makes Murakami's writing style unique without much success. He manages to catch your attention and keep you hooked from start to finish even at moments where there really is nothing major going on. There wasn't a single moment in my reading of Norweigan Wood where i felt bored or that the novel dragged on. I simply could not put the book down and when I did, I simply could not wait to get back into it.

Saying that Norweigan Wood is a romance novel is selling it quite short. Sure that is essentially the foundation, but for those of you that just dread that word this is not an ordinary romance novel. It is not a simple tale of 'boy meets girl and lives happily ever after'-scenario. Murakami portrays a love that is sprinkled with obstacles and tragedy, it is rough and painful both physically and mentally. It explores a wide arrange of themes, such as death and impotence, mental illness and the hardship of growing up.

I implore you to at least try it. I am sure that you will find something to like even if you do not completely fall in love with it as I did. I know not of a single person that disliked the book once they read it. I cant express myself to say exactly why you should read it, I just know the way it affected me is something few novels manage to do.
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on 11 February 2014
“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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on 28 February 2013
Let me start off by saying that this is a very depressing book, but one that really touched me more than I could have imagined. Apart from the fact that I happen to be a huge Beatles fan, and so was immediately attracted to the title of the book, you have a wonderfully respected writer, a very interesting storyline, and a great setting both in time and place for a story to occur.

This is my first Murakami book, and he did not fail to amaze and impress. It's not just the content, but the writing itself - and perhaps that has a lot to do with the translation as well, so kudos to the translator - which was absolutely mesmerizing. The descriptions, the emotions conveyed, the thoughts expressed so non-eloquently by the characters and yet very eloquently by the writer, the scenery, the simplicity of the telling of the story made it such a beautiful book to read.

Unlike many of the other readers and reviewers of this book, I did not finish it in a day and I actually found I had to put it down a lot. Not because I would get bored, or because I didn't like it. On the contrary, it was because of the intensity of the book that I needed breaks in between to let it all sink in before I could go on reading it. It is the kind of book that you need to really submerge yourself into, and take it slowly, so you can really relish and take pleasure in this experience, as well as prolong it.

Norwegian Wood has been likened to Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and I suppose I could understand the comparison and the resemblance between Holden Caufield and Toru Watanabe, whom the book revolves around.

Toru Watanabe is a student in Tokyo in the year 1969 (told you it was a great year), and the book portrays his relationship with Naoko - his dead best friend's girlfriend - Midori, Reiko, Nagasawa, Hatsumi and even Storm Trooper. The book opens with an adult Toru, having heard the song Norwegian Wood, going back in years to recall the events of that fateful time of his life where all these people meant one thing or another to him.

Murakami manages to catch your attention from the beginning, and only succeeds in holding it for the entirety of the book. Seemingly a love story of sorts, the book deals with so much more than just that, not shying from putting on display very deep emotional, human aspects for everyone to see. From loneliness, to friendship, to loss, death, impotence, adolescence, sex, humour and most importantly, hope - the book encompasses all of that and so much more. It is very real, and deals with very serious issues, one major running theme being suicide and death at a young age.

I will say this though, as depressing as this book is, it does try to inspire hope and positivity and moving on. One of the things I really loved is the symbolism involved where the characters are concerned. Naoko symbolizing death and impotency and tragedy is a complete contrast to Midori who symbolizes life and sex and hope and resilience, and we sit throughout the novel wondering whether Toru is going to choose life or death.

I cannot recommend this book enough, and I could go on analysing every aspect of it for days, and every reader comes out with their own perception and interpretation of it. This is a remarkable book, and should be put on everyone's must-read lists, in fact I completely agree with all those who said that Murakami really must rank among the world's greatest living novelists. It won't be my last for him, that's for sure.
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on 13 November 2012
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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VINE VOICEon 19 February 2013
This book is sublime. Although the story is little and gentle, it reflects the era and the pretentiousness of the age group perfectly. The main characters depth, but also self cantered shallowness, drifts through the events of his life with little or no consequence.

This is the second Marukami book I have read, and can recommend it totally. However, he uses death as a main part of his story, and is a frequent visitor; disproportionately so. It can make for a hard read in places. There is also frequent sex- graphic but biological. It is relevant to the story and the people in it, but may upset some.

I loved this book, and the pace sucked me in as a place for me to go to escape my life. I was sad when I finished it, as I found myself wanting to be part of it.
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on 20 December 2011
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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on 8 August 2014
Having only read 1Q84 from Murakami, this book was a completely different approach. The love story itself had me frustrated yet times, yet the understanding of the characters is something that will stay with you. It was so lovely, I wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it.
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on 2 June 2014
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. I guess you would either hate it or love it. It could be seen as boring and long or depressing. What i learnt, however, is that it truly makes you think about different aspects of your own life. This is true for every other story by Murakami, but for someone who has never read anything by this great writer, i would suggest to start with Norwegian wood. I read it for the first time long time ago, but i keep coming back to it as it attracts me the most with its mysterious storyline and his expression of love
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