Notably one of Murakami's Best Novels "Norwegian wood" stands out in every way possible. Connecting with the reader on an Intimate level, it brings into picture concepts of personal loss and passion, making it the first recommendation in OC's Book recommendation club.
Here are two different takes on Norwegian Wood by our writers Megha Saha and Abhijith Rajagopalan.
Words by Megha Saha
This is a tale of love, loss, and most importantly the potency of memories. Unlike most of Haruki Murakami’s works that I have come across, ‘Norwegian Wood’ takes a less is more approach to the subtler emotions that human beings experience every day. True to his style, he takes seemingly simplistic themes and weaves a wonderful story around them.
The reliance on surreal dreamscapes that are a signature part of Murakami's rich visual imagery is conspicuously less. But it makes sense. Toru and Naoko’s companionship seems to be fulfilling and it would not be wrong to surmise that Naoko pretty much turned to Toru to assuage the grief that cocooned her after Kizuki’s death. Toru offered to her unwavering empathy. However, their ‘love’ was bound to plummet towards failure very early on in the book. This was simply because empathy does not always cut it.
Midori, on the other hand, serves as a reminder of the fact that all is not lost and that there is hope for Toru, who seems to be someone who for the majority of his life has absorbed the troubles of those around him and been weighed down by it. However, Toru’sencounter with Midori does not fructify into anything similar to what it teases at the beginning. Admittedly, Midori is no stranger to the void that is created by the death of loved ones- in her case, it was her mother. However, it affects her differently. She allows herself to grieve but is also able to move forward from it. Years after Naoko’s death, Toru is held hostage by the acute sense of loss that it caused him. His bereavement is made worse by the realization that she probably never loved him in the way that he did. Largely, 'Norwegian Wood' leaves the readers without a resolution, which again seems to be quite purposefully done. It also drives home the point that there is no linearity and symmetry in the way grief affects different people. Any attempt to reason with this reality is simply in vain. Much to Midori's disdain, Toru gravitates towards what torments him. While Naoko struggles with her mental illnesses, Toru finds himself navigating his own grief as well as Naoko's share. For the most part, he never had a say-first, in Kizuki's suicide, then the long-drawn spell of Naoko's struggle with her illness culminating to her death and lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the fact that his love for Naoko was unrequited. Toru, being the narrator gives us a chance to root for him. He is rooting for himself too as he picks up the phone to talk to Midori as he fears being pulled back into the same pit of hopelessness that he struggles to get away from. In the end, it is unclear whether he’s successful.
Words by Abhijith Rajagopalan
The name "Norwegian Wood" brings to my mind The Beatles classic, Lennon and McCartney on vocals creating a song that is second to none. That was until I read Haruki Murakami's novel of the same name. From the time I flipped over its last page, the name takes me to Toru Watanabe's life in Tokyo as Murakami navigates us through it.
The book explores concepts of grief and loss alongside love and passion. Every character carries within them a memory of things they have lost in their lives. Be it a friend, a sibling, a lover, a parent or a past life.
Set in 1960s Tokyo the book revolves around Toru Watanabe, our protagonist, a college student majoring in drama. Unlike his peers, Watanabe spends his time engulfed in novels and exploring American literature. He finds comfort in the companionship of Naoko, they are both connected to each other by the common string that was Kizuki. Kizuki was Toru's best friend and Naoko's boyfriend. He committed suicide when he was 17 years old. Naoko is troubled throughout the Novel by his death. Whereas Toru moves to Tokyo soon after. We come across Midori Kobayashi a bit further into the story, an outgoing student who also is in Toru's Drama class. They both developed a relation where they understand each other and begin to be there for one another in times of need. We move alongside Toru as he confronts his feelings for both Naoko and Midori. With Naoko leaving Tokyo for taking time to get her mental health better, Toru is caught in the torment of love and personal loss.
Like all Murakami classics, Norwegian Wood makes an appeal to people looking for introspection and reinvention. It tells a very close-knit story that despite its nature pushes beyond all boundaries and makes the reader ponder over the concept of truly understanding who they are.
Thank you for spending your precious time with our words, we greatly appreciate it, and make sure to leave your book recommendations for next week in the comments :)