Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Book review: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Title: Norwegian Wood
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Novel
Subject: Coming of Age
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Release date: 1987 (2000 English version)
Length: 296 pages
I got this book: From the library in Dutch

It is so hard to summarise this book. I will use the summary from goodreads. It doesn't do the book justice, but I have no idea where to start myself.
"Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman."

Personal opinion:
Because a lot of people in my twitter timeline were reading this, I decided to pick it up at the library. I wanted to read a book from a Japanese author anyhow so why not start with Norwegian Wood. I have to say that this book was a slow read for me. It took me a whole week to get through it. I can best compare it with having a meal. When you are full you are full and with this book it felt the same. At a glance it seems that there isn't much happening in the book because it is all about daily student life, but in fact a lot is happening. This book is very dialogue based which adds a lot of details to the story. I notice while writing this review it is hard for me to actually express my feelings about this book. It was surely a heavier read than I had expected. However all the former doesn't means I didn't enjoy the book because I did. I enjoyed all the quirky little details that made the characters feel so real. The only thing I didn't really like were the frequent detailed sex paragraphs in the book.

My thoughts on this book and Japanese society:
In fact, I was surprised that the book had so many detailed sex passages. Somehow I didn't expect this at all in Japanese Literature. This must be because of my own ideas of the Japanese culture. I have the idea that Japanese people aren't open about sex at all. Of course I know very little about Japanese people, but that was just the picture I got and therefore this came as a total surprise for me. Another thing that made me realise something about the Japanese society was the fact that the age of 20 seems to be a huge deal. The book makes it sound that it is expected in Japanese society that at age 20 you grow up in an instant. Until you are 19 you can have fun but at 20 that is over and it is time to get serious. Of course I don't know if this is really the case but that is how it sounded to me in this book.

I liked it!

Purchase links: Amazon
Other reviews: Bibliojunkie , the Blue Bookcase
If you have reviewed this book and want your link here, please leave a comment with the link, and I will add it :)


  1. Norwegian Wood is one of my least favourite of Murakami's books so you should definitely try another one sometime.

    In Japan, 20 is the age of majority. Like in the US, it's 21. It's an important milestone. From 20 you are legally considered an adult, and that does in some regards mean it's time to shoulder more responsibility.

  2. I also wasn't too interested in Norwegian Wood. It's one of Murakami's books that I remember least. Glad you made it to the end. :-)

  3. Yes, the sex scenes were a little over the top. I really liked this book and wish I could recommend it, but I know a lot of people who would be quite uncomfortable with those sex scenes. Oh well.
    Like you, I liked the quirky details about the characters as well. :) Great review!