Friday, November 4, 2011

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami has an irresistible way with words. I'd never read anything by him before so I wasn't really sure what to expect. But what I wasn't prepared for was an unputdownable book. I carried it around with me reading at every opportunity while trying not to burn the dinner or walk into walls. It's a sad story with much death and much casual sex. Not everyone's cup of tea perhaps, but I think Murakami perfectly captures the essence of that peculiar, bewildering, late adolescent/early adult time in a person's life. The characters are still warm with the glow of childhood as they are suddenly thrust into some harsh realities that even seasoned adults would find hard to face. They try holding on to the safe and familiar past but come to realize that looking to the future is really the only sensible, if difficult, solution. "We didn't pay when we should have, so now the bills are due." I loved the abrupt and slightly ambiguous ending: "Where are you now?" Oh man. What an amazing author.

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. (back cover)

With my eyes closed, I would touch a familiar book and draw its fragrance deep inside me. This was enough to make me happy. pg37

It was a soft and gentle kiss, one not meant to lead beyond itself. I would probably not have kissed Midori that day if we hadn't spent the afternoon on the laundry deck in the sun, drinking beer and watching a fire, and she no doubt felt the same. After a long time of watching the glittering rooftops and the smoke and the red dragonflies and other things, we had felt something warm and close, and we both probably wanted, half consciously, to preserve that mood in some form. It was that kind of kiss. But as with all kisses, it was not without a certain element of danger. pg102

"Because we would have to pay the world back what we owed it," she said, raising her eyes to mine. "The pain of growing up. We didn't pay when we should have, so now the bills are due. Which is why Kizuki did what he did, and why I'm here. We were like kids who grew up naked on a desert island. If we got hungry, we'd just pick a banana; if we got lonely, we'd go sleep in each other's arms. But that kind of thing does not go on forever. We grew up fast and had to enter society. Which is why you were so important to us. You were the link connecting us with the outside. pg169

"I'm warning you, I've got a whole month's worth of misery crammed inside me and getting ready to blow. So watch what you say to me. Any more of that kind of stuff and I'll flood this place with tears. Once I get started, I'm good for the whole night. Are you ready for that? I'm an absolute animal when I start crying, it doesn't matter where I am! I'm not joking. pg293

10 comments:

Tracy said...

It is a very beautiful, very poignant novel - but it's so very sad.

Trish said...

It reminded me of Ordinary People by Judith Guest - also very poignant and beautiful.

oreneta said...

I ADORE Murakami, and I am finishing up the final book of IQ84 right now, which I would whole heartedly recommend. My favourite of his, so far, is Kafka at the Beach, which I absolutely was smitten by. IQ84, the first two books, were unputdownable...to coin a word. The third one is a different tone and style...tight and almost claustrophobic, but also roaring and dragging you in. A weird combination that leaves me needing to put it down to breathe from time to time. HIGHLY recommended too.

Trish said...

I love that combination of unputdownable vs. needing to come up for air all in a single book. What a reading experience! Thanks for the heads-up on those other titles.

Amy said...

I;m glad you 'enjoyed' your first book by Haruki Murakami. I was in the midst of reading this wonderful book when my neighbor noticed it, picked it up to read the back cover and left with it! Apparently she's enjoying it, which I'm happy about, but I want my book back!

You cited great sections from the book, what an amazing writer Murakami is!

Laura said...

I keep seeing reviews of Murakami books and being like 'man, I've gotta read something by him!' and then forget like 5 minutes later. But I shall! And this sounds lovely!

Trish said...

Amy - lol that's too funny about your neighbor! I hope you get it back soon ;)

Laura - yes, for some reason it took me a long time to finally get around to reading him, too. I don't know, I guess he's still kind of obscure and not on a whole lot of lists out there.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

Murakami as an author intimidates me, but this sounds like it might be a good place for me to start. One day I will read one of his books and wonder just why I waited so long! :P

Trish said...

Sam - This one does seem to be a good introduction. Try it! I think you'll like it :)

Kailana said...

I didn't think I would like this book, either, but I ended up really enjoying it.