By: Haruki Murakami (trans. Jay Rubin)
Published: September 12, 2000 by Vintage
Genres: Adult, Literary Fiction
Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.
This book absolutely gutted me. I’m convinced that Murakami might be a bit of a sadist – the things that he made the main character Toru deal with were beyond what any human being should ever have to go through.
I loved the contrast between how relatively normal Toru was versus the outlandish personalities of the people in his life. I think that today, the personalities of the characters may seem somewhat tired (for instance, one of the main characters is a manic pixie dream girl) but when the book was first released, these stereotypes weren’t played out yet.
I also completely fell in love with Murakami’s prosaic style of writing. I think if Norwegian Wood had been written in a poetic and extravagant style, it would have come off as incredibly melodramatic. However, the simple prose made the story much more realistic and affecting.
I’m certainly going to look into Murakami’s other books to read in the future…but perhaps ones that aren’t quite so depressing.