Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami


Genre: Fiction
Synopsis: When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire - to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past.


Note: This is a VERY spoiler-heavy review.

Review: I'll point out some good things first - it was very easy to read, despite not really enjoying it. Certain parts made me laugh out loud, some parts were beautifully written and I actually enjoyed a scene or two. So it wasn't the worst thing I have ever read. Not quite, anyway.

Now, what I didn't like about it:
1. The characters. They had no substance WHATSOEVER. They had no personality or life, they were mere aspects of neurosis with names (the women) and one narratorial vehicle through which to unite all the women (Toru). Each girl had some kind of problem with sex, whether it was that they couldn't have it or were obssessed with it or had been traumatised by an experience with a 13 year old girl. As you do. The other aspect of their lives was death. Multiple suicides among family and friends, and later themselves. Toru passes absolutely no judgement over any of these things, he just goes along with it, 'falling in love' with two of the neurotic girls, and just to tie themes up, having inexplicable sex with the third. There is nothing beyond this to the characters, no depth, no substance, nothing. Just a series of events related to sex and death.

2. The plot. What plot? There was a plot? As far as I could see, not only did the sex and death have no personalities to ground themselves in, nothing else actually happened. Oh, a revolution that is mentioned twice in a couple of pages each time which is summed up as 'disgusting Toru'. That's great. So basically the entire novel is made up of a characterless guy meeting girls, talking about/having sex with them, and thinking/talking about death while various people die or kill themselves. Since there's no emotional attachement in any of it, it's completely monotonous and boring.

All that said, there was a brief moment towards the end when I felt for Midori. Probably because her actions resembled something like a human's for a brief period when she stopped being obssessed with sex long enough to point out she actually had an EMOTIONAL attachment to Toru, who had, being utterly characterless, forgotten about all the girls while moving house. Still, I don't think I could ever really relate to a girl who sits naked in front of a photo of her dead father to show him her chest and vagina because 'he helped create them', before stating his penis was impressive when she saw it and that she hopes he gets to bang her mum in heaven.

Overall: Boring. Monotonous. Repetitive.
If anyone would like to have a go at explaining the 'X factor' about Murakami which clearly went over my head, please, PLEASE do so, you might make the last three days of reading this rubbish worthwhile.

Rating: 1/5