Review: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

October 1, 2012

Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday
Year: 2012
ISBN: 9780307950628
Rating: ★★★★½
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To read Murakami is an experience, one of the types which circulate over our known fears and anguish, especially those which keep us awake at night. However it paves way far from the conventional thereby reaching the inner recesses of our heart, liberating us from the agony that reigned over it.

Named after the famous Beatles song Norwegian Wood brings back the very feel of its lyrics, rather a million times as you go on reading it. Belonging to times troubled by the turbulence of political upheaval and other social issues, the protagonist Toru seems familiar, a youth like any of us. He walks through many roads of life, green pastures as well, at times happy with his experiences then again bruised by the hurdles at which he stumbles. Torn between his eternal love for Naoko and his newfound liking for Midori, Toru climbs the many heights of love. In every rise and fall he survives, learns a lesson and then moves on. The confusions which engage his mind, the disbelief over common education, the hasty decisions he takes after a sudden rush of adrenaline yet his moments of deep contemplation makes Toru real and enjoyable as a character. Moreover his tryst with memories of his dead friend Kizuki becomes another important aspect of his character. Naoko in all her sensitivity and prolonged recovery from Kizuki’s death adds a dimension not only to the story but also to Toru. Midori is funny and sexy and strangely upbeat in spite of the many hindrances she has to fight with. In a delicate, sensual manner Murakami unfolds his story which never falls in pace. The characters are easy to relate with, their vices being similar to ours, their joy touching us deep down. The beautiful descriptions of countryside soothe the inside while the common pictures of metropolis fit perfectly in the context where they arrive. Toru moves in a circle with Naoko and Midori being the two ends of its diameter. More than love he finds a responsibility towards Naoko while Midori gives him a tender comfort, she sets him free. Thus in an effort to bring completion to his love, Toru drifts between the two, as if his solace resides in both of them.

In bold eroticism as well as in his original literary brilliance Murakami compels his readers to see their reflections on the pages of this book. The story ends on a poignant note, as if we expect a little more from it. But it unceremoniously reveals the fact that the sense of unfulfillment is an integral part of life. We might not have all what we want, yet we dream, yet we want, yet we try and finally we reach somewhere close to what we once wished. The song comes with the feeling which says “this bird has flown”. For Toru, may be the bird flies away twice. After speaking countless words the story ends in silence which makes him both a winner and a victim, he loses in victory. Perhaps we all do. Much like a journey for soul-searching the book becomes a favourite without any debate.

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