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Beautiful,
Insightful,
Romantic

3 reviews

Norwegian Wood
by Haruki Murakami

Published: 2000-09-12
Paperback : 298 pages
3 members reading this now
12 clubs reading this now
7 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 3 members
Stunning and elegiac, Norwegian Wood first propelled Haruki Murakami into the forefront of the literary scene.

Toru, a 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 ...
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Introduction

Stunning and elegiac, Norwegian Wood first propelled Haruki Murakami into the forefront of the literary scene.

Toru, a 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. As Naoko retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

A magnificent coming-of-age story steeped in nostalgia, Norwegian Wood blends the music, the mood, and the ethos that were the sixties with a young man’s hopeless and heroic first love.

Editorial Review

In 1987, when Norwegian Wood was first published in Japan, it promptly sold more than 4 million copies and transformed Haruki Murakami into a pop-culture icon. The horrified author fled his native land for Europe and the United States, returning only in 1995, by which time the celebrity spotlight had found some fresher targets. And now he's finally authorized a translation for the English-speaking audience, turning to the estimable Jay Rubin, who did a fine job with his big-canvas production The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Readers of Murakami's later work will discover an affecting if atypical novel, and while the author himself has denied the book's autobiographical import--"If I had simply written the literal truth of my own life, the novel would have been no more than fifteen pages long"--it's hard not to read as at least a partial portrait of the artist as a young man.

Norwegian Wood is a simple coming-of-age tale, primarily set in 1969-70, when the author was attending university. The political upheavals and student strikes of the period form the novel's backdrop. But the focus here is the young Watanabe's love affairs, and the pain and pleasure and attendant losses of growing up. The collapse of a romance (and this is one among many!) leaves him in a metaphysical shambles:

I read Naoko's letter again and again, and each time I read it I would be filled with the same unbearable sadness I used to feel whenever Naoko stared into my eyes. I had no way to deal with it, no place I could take it to or hide it away. Like the wind passing over my body, it had neither shape nor weight, nor could I wrap myself in it.
This account of a young man's sentimental education sometimes reads like a cross between Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and Stephen Vizinczey's In Praise of Older Women. It is less complex and perhaps ultimately less satisfying than Murakami's other, more allegorical work. Still, Norwegian Wood captures the huge expectation of youth--and of this particular time in history--for the future and for the place of love in it. It is also a work saturated with sadness, an emotion that can sometimes cripple a novel but which here merely underscores its youthful poignancy. --Mark Thwaite

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Which is Watanabe's true love, Naoko or Midori?
by [email protected] (see profile) 10/16/19

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Musical Writing"by [email protected] (see profile) 10/16/19

Like the song, this book is a beautifully sad, poignant melody, full of insight into life, death, and areas in between. Murakami's writing is so good you can actually hear it. Give him the Nobel Prize... (read more)

 
by amylyndon (see profile) 10/04/18

 
  "This was a great book"by JPMay (see profile) 09/30/14

We really enjoyed this book

 
  "not for everyone"by janam (see profile) 09/21/10

 
  "An unusual coming of age story of a Japanese teen in the late 1960s."by kdwyer (see profile) 03/29/09

This book was a very unique coming of age story for a Western reader. Toru is in his last year of high school when his best friend commits suicide. The effect this suicide has on Toru and Naoko, the... (read more)

 
  "It was difficult to get through"by karenannmoore (see profile) 03/28/08

I didn't particularly care for this story. Our club thought that maybe we lost something in the translation. I didn't understand all the suicides and the alienation of the main male character while understandable... (read more)

 
  "Lost in Translation"by Diane860 (see profile) 02/28/08

This book was not popular with our book club. Many in the group could not get through the book to finish it. Those that did basically didn't like the book. The consensus seemed to be that something... (read more)

 
  "Found this book hard to understand"by suemoros (see profile) 01/24/08

This was not a pleasure to read. I only finished because it was the current book club selection.

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