Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami - Book Review

I have been an avid Murakami reader, from Kafka On The Shore to Sputnik Sweetheart, I have read most of his novels. A few are on the bucket list though. Murakami is all about talking cats, flying elephants, disappearing sheep, but Norwegian Wood does not contain magical surrealism until the very end of the story that too only a teensy bit. It is “just” a love story. Yet not “just” a love story. It is a story about teenage love, loss, sex, passion, mental health and so many things more. Every time you read the book a new aspect, a new perspective opens up in front of you. Let me start with the title of the book. It is taken from the famous song which goes by the same name by The Beatles which John Lennon wrote about one of his affairs he was having at that time and wanted to hide it from his wife Cynthia and hence the hazy smoke-screen enigmatic lyrics from which hardly anyone can infer any meaning. “Norwegian Wood” literally means a fake kind of wood which is used in furniture. The narrator, Toru Watanabe’s life revolves around Naoko, who is the girlfriend of his dead friend, Kizuki who committed suicide in a weird way, and after Kizuki’s death, Naoko just loses it. Naoko stays in a mental asylum with a roommate, Reiko, in a remote location where the patients help each other to get better, but Naoko struggles with her mental illness and often finds herself at a loss of words when she sits down to answer Toru’s letters. She hears voices that do not allow her to pen down any of her thoughts. Meanwhile, Midori falls in love with Toru and confesses the love to him but Toru struggles in getting Naoko out of his head. As a result, everyone suffers. All the characters in the novel have their own back-story, which is equally shattering. There are times in most of our lives in which we are in the middle of a crossroad, but we cannot travel both ways, as Robert Frost once said, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both”. We must choose. We must let go of something while we hold onto something else. It is the price we pay, that counts.

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