Norwegian Wood, Novel Review

Author Haruki Murakami

This is the spoiler free review of Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. If you would like to read the spoiler full review and see the full discussion of how weird sex is in Murakami’s world please visit here.

Norwegian Wood is an earlier novel of Murakami’s and it lacks a lot of the magical realism aspects that made me fall in love with his greater works.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still spectacularly written and engaging but I miss the supernatural aspect that brings me away from a spotlight on human flaws.

Norwegian Wood is the story of Toru Watanabe and his first two loves. Naoko and Midori have completely different personalities and are both completely damaged in their own ways.

Naoko is a childhood friend of Toru who struggles far more with mental illness than he realizes and Midori is a hot mess of crazy who would drive anyone insane right along with her.

I honestly did not like the main characters in this book. They are all very flawed and at times despicable.

However, they are never unrealistic. As much as it pains me to admit I could put myself in their shoes on several occasions. I didn’t like reliving some of the memories that it brought up but I am glad to say that I outgrew many of the flaws I see represented here.

There is so much done in youth that you do not realize is as harmful as it is. It’s easy to pass judgement on these characters but can you honestly say you’ve never been one of them?

Murakami finds and highlights those youthful indiscretions as well as a darker side to human sexuality.

Sex is weird in this book. I see a lot of reviews that complain about the graphic nature of the sex scenes and conversations but I didn’t have a problem with the descriptions so much as the motives.

Norwegian Wood contains many reasons that a person would have sex but not one of them is as an expression of romantic love. We see sex for power, boredom, loneliness, physical need, curiosity, obligation, drunkenness, and grief. But not from two people in a healthy loving relationship expressing their feelings for each other.

But still, that is very human. This is the most relatable book that you don’t want to relate to.

It deals with endless emotions. A majority of which are negative. Such as grief, loneliness, regret, anger, jealousy, confusion, spite, etc. But just as in real life when you experience negative emotion after negative emotion it really makes the positive occurrences that much more special. You need the dichotomy.

Mukakami’s brilliant prose keeps the story flowing whether you like what’s being said or not. It may be uncomfortable at times but it’s never dull.

I like to think that there is an unwritten sequel in which Toru learns from all the negatives in this book and outgrows a lot of these people and problems. But if there’s not, maybe you can learn from him instead.

4/5 broken hearts 💔💔💔💔

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