Book Review: Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

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‘Death exists, not as the opposite, but as a part of life.’

Reading Ages: 16+ *
Category: Realistic Fiction
Overall Rating: ★★★★★
(*NB. Not suitable for younger readers.)

The universal praise of this book is most certainly hard-earned by Haruki Murakami’s intense and yet somehow also whimsical Norwegian Wood. While those who read solely for the pleasure of a plot would stand rather unimpressed, others would realise that Toru (our protagonist) manages to cut right to the heart of the human spirit, and to correctly identify all that lies therein. The narration through Toru’s mind is intricate and spellbinding, often succeeding in putting the reader on the edge of their seat without doing anything much at all.

The plotline weaves a fine tapestry of thoughts and feelings and delicate imagery, and you will find yourself very quickly wrapped up in Toru and Naoko’s little world. The translation from the original Japanese is astonishing, and the captivation of the writing style is carried through into the English perfectly.

The landscapes and detail described is beyond imagination: finely sculpted and refined so as to allow you to picture scenes perfectly without the interference of needlessly confusing paragraphs. The soft dialogue allows Murakami to truly achieve greatness in his writing, that not a single word is wasted. Every sentence spoken has some kind of purpose: not just to further the plot, but to reveal a pinhole of information about the speaker, whether they are simply passing through or staying for a chapter or more.

Norwegian Wood offers a new angle on life and love and mortality, a perspective which isn’t often explored – that of someone utterly ordinary to whom utterly normal events occur. Toru is a perfect example of imperfection and of our true perceptions of humanity; he is real and alive and here.

Believable and dangerously captivating, this is worth so much more than five stars.

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