“Death was not the opposite of life. It was already here, within my being, it had always been here, and no struggle would permit me to forget that.”
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami is a fictional novel set in 1960s Tokyo. Norwegian Wood, which gets its title from The Beatles song of the same name, is a novel that centered in death and the feeling of loss related to it. The song is often mentioned in the novel, and is the favourite song of the character Naoko.
The book begins with the narrator, Toru Watanabe, on a plane and looking back to when he was 19 in the late 1960s as a college student living in Tokyo.He recalled Naoko, a childhood friend with whom he shared a traumatic experience, the tragic suicide of Kizuki, Naoko’s boyfriend and his best friend. Naoko grows increasingly troubled and goes to an isolated mental facility. Meanwhile, Toru strikes up a friendship with Midori, a fiercely independent and lively classmate who is exactly the polar opposite of Naoko.
“Why?” she screamed. “Are you crazy? You know the English subjunctive, you understand trigonometry, you can read Marx, and you don’t know the answer to something as simple as that? Why do you even have to ask? Why do you have to make a girl SAY something like this? I like you more than I like him, that’s all. I wish I had fallen in love with somebody a little more handsome, of course. But I didn’t. I fell in love with you!” – Midori
Norwegian Wood is the first book of Haruki Murakami that I read. Norwegian Wood is a story of love, commitment and coming of age and is simply one of few books that you wouldn’t stop reading once you started it. It was a emotional read with endearing characters. I really enjoyed the characters and identified with their struggles. The story is dark but not overwhelming. In this book, Murakami really shows you the intricacy of depression, suicide, and the struggle of characters to get past the tragedies in their lives and find happiness.
The Beatles’ song Norwegian wood is a favourite of Naoko’s and Reiko plays it frequently on her guitar. The lyrics could describe Toru’s relationship with Naoko as well as Midori:
“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.”