Customer Reviews


92 Reviews
5 star:
 (66)
4 star:
 (18)
3 star:
 (5)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting
" 'Norwegian Wood' is still the one Murakami book that 'everyone' in Japan has read," says Jay Rubin in his Translator's Note of this simple, straightforward, semi-autobiographical story. Toru Watanabe as narrator of this 1960s period piece reminds me of Nick Carraway in Fitzgerald's "Gatsby"; Watanabe seems one step removed from the action even while he is part of it,...
Published on June 21 2001 by Laure-Madeleine

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Very convincing characters,deeply insightful perspective
37-year-old businessman Watanabe recalls his days as an 'ordinary' University student in the 70s and Norwegian Wood is his story.Through his narrating,the reader knows very convincing characters like Naoko (his beloved,ethereal gal whose importance I believe is pivotal as a deceptively simple romance for readers looking for a poignant 'love story'),very charming Reiko(who...
Published on Sept. 6 2003 by J Ng


‹ Previous | 1 2 310 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding, Feb. 13 2004
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
Wow! I was completely enchanted by this lyrical novel. The character development is outstanding and the mood really grabs you and gives the words a sense of depth and intense presence.
Toru Watanabe is a young man coming into his own and deciding how to live. He does choose to live though, when so many others around him are choosing to die. It is powerful to see his struggles to "wind his spring" as so much comes crashing down around him and he deals with the monotony of life.
He is torn between two loves, until Reiko shows him that it is wonderful to be able to love at all, it is a gift, and that he should not feel bad for loving two women. Naoko and he have a relationship on the edge of life and death which intoxicates him and draws him to her. Midori is an amazing character (I absolutely loved her!) and so full of life that it helps keep him connected to the living world.
I especially enjoyed how sex was used in such creative ways. Sex was used to help us identify with the characters, to illuminate the difference between flesh and soul, to illustrate the frustrations of growing up, to form a friendship, to share passion, just to be alive!
This book did remind me of the Japanese version of The Catcher in the Rye, and Toru does read that novel quite often. There is just something about this book that transcends language and explanation. I loved this book and will definitely enjoy reading it again! A must read!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Very convincing characters,deeply insightful perspective, Sept. 6 2003
By 
J Ng (Singapore) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
37-year-old businessman Watanabe recalls his days as an 'ordinary' University student in the 70s and Norwegian Wood is his story.Through his narrating,the reader knows very convincing characters like Naoko (his beloved,ethereal gal whose importance I believe is pivotal as a deceptively simple romance for readers looking for a poignant 'love story'),very charming Reiko(who also has her strange,tantalising story to tell) and fickle,sensitive and frank Midori who, genuinely loves Watanabe.
Norwegian Wood surely deserves more than three stars for the author's deeply insightful perspective for all characters,including the lonely,young one-night-stander Watanabe.Obviously,the characters are so true-to-life that they could be strangers standing beside you,young adults reading Thomas Mann at a cafe or chatting in the pub with jazz buzzing around,or somebody playing piano in the restaurant you are sitting in.
Yet,from the author's pen,every character is bestowed a kind of tenderness ,sympathy and helplessness with their plights.Trust your intuition,the characters have no way out although they've tried their best like you and I.
The reason why I give it a three-star is the book doesn't give me what some reviewers have felt upon finishing.While admiring the author's sharp portraits of the characters(in fact,its so good that it doesn't feel you are reading Fiction at all!),as a reader I would have expected a louder,more engaging if not all- fair voice in a novel,instead of a blander,quieter piece like Norwegian Wood that reads deceptively like some popular pulps.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Deceptively simple, Feb. 17 2003
By 
Ms Diva "cycworker" (Nanaimo, B.C. Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
I found that this book was hard to get into at first. I read about a chapter and a half and needed a break. Once I picked it up again, I was hooked.
Although on the surface this novel appears to be a simple coming of age tale, it goes much deeper than that. I found myself getting caught up in the creative way that Murakami uses setting to create tone and atmosphere in the story. The things going on in the background - the campus riots, dorm life, the sanitarium, etc., aren't just there to fill up space. They're integral to creating the mood the author needs to get across his themes. And his themes are very complex - issues to do with the nature of love, life, and loss in modern society. This is a very disturbing book, with some imagery (the sex scenes aren't thrown in here just to be titillating. In fact, the sex is some of the most disturbing I've read in serious fiction in a long time. But that's part of the point - he's showing how sex can actually be a means of creating distance rather closeness between people) although there is an element of hope in the end.
I didn't like the use of the flashback technique in this book. The novel starts with Toru, the main character, as an adult reflecting back on his life at age 20ish. Other authors (notably Wolff in Patterns of Childhood) have used memory as a device to better effect than Murakami did here. He could just as easily have started the novel with Toru at 19 and skipped the first chapter. The book doesn't particularly deal well with mental illness or suicide, in that I didn't particularly gain a whole lot more insight into either of those two issues than I had prior to reading the book.
Having said that, the reason this book is so gripping and kept me reading to the end is that Murakami created characters I could invest in and relate to. I cared about these people, and I wanted to know what happened to them. Naoko wasn't quite as fully fleshed out as Toru, or even Midori, but I think that fit; so much of she was was an image in Toru's mind. This novel is one where the use of the first person narrative was an brilliant choice on behalf of the author. It's vital to the story that everything is told from Toru's point of view. The dialogue is very good, too.
I can't compare this novel to any of the author's other work, as I haven't read any of it. I don't expect to rush out and read his other books, given how different they are purported to be compared to Norwegian Wood. I will say that if you are looking for a coming of age novel that still has appeal to those over the age of 25, this book is a good choice.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Some choose to live..., Jan. 9 2003
By 
cnyadan (Bavaria, Germany) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
I bought this book a long time ago, thinking it looked interesting, but it was probably two years before I actually got around to reading it. When I did, I just about devoured it, not because it is the best book in the world, but because it captures a particular time so well, and the choices one comes to in building a life philosophy.
Set in Japan in 1969 and 1970, it's the story of a young college student, Toru, and his "relationship" with a girl, Naoko, who was the girlfriend of his best friend, who killed himself a couple of years before. Toru's life isn't charmed, but he's making it through, despite his shortcomings and mistakes. Naoko has a harder time dealing with life itself, with her own and others' imperfections, and this inability to cope with the everyday eventually leads her down her own path. Toru attempts to understand her, be there for her, and love her as best he can. Being only 19 himself (at the beginning of the book), he's got a lot of growing up to do and decisions to make himself. In the end, he probably makes the only decision he can make without going crazy himself, but this is also not without a great deal of sadness.
The one gripe I have about this book is that there is quite a few sex scenes... This is played off, in part, to Toru's "craziness", but still was kind of weird. What I did enjoy, though, was the description of the few people closest to Toru, his roommate, whom Toru has nicknamed "Stormtrooper", Toru's only "friend" in the dorms, this guy's girlfriend, Midori, Naoko, and Naoko's roommate. Each is a different type of "crazy". Some have even realized as much, and it's interesting to see how each character deals with that in themselves, and as it pertains to living with the rest of this crazy world. And no, not everybody makes it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Murakami proves himself to be more than a 'niche' writer, Oct. 13 2002
By 
A. Steinhebel (Tacoma, WA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
This novel was a huge depature from Murakami's other work. Unlike his other works, which are chalk full of evil sheep, unicorns, wind up birds, and the end of the world, Norwegian Wood is a fairly straight forward coming of age love story. But the relativly simplistic plot of this novel betrays a very complex underworking that is just as good, if not better, then the other, more playful and bizarre, books. In terms of actual style, I couldn't help but liken it to a mixture of The Great Gatasby and Catcher in the Rye (bot of which are alluded too many times in the course of Norwegian Wood). Unlike the other Murakami's, which I feel have an almost emotional void to them (which I love, don't get me wrong...), this one was almost painfully emotional. Loce, loss, hardship, happiness; Murakami touches on all of them. And Toru Watanabe is not the average Murakami Hero. AGain, he is more emotional, less detached then the others. The reader knows him far better than any of the other protagonists in the other novels. You feel for him. You understand the basis of his pain. It's really a powerful novel. Any Murakami fan that hasn't yet read this, must get to it as soon as poissible. Don't overlook it because it appears to be mainstream (which it really isn't). However...if you are looking for a Murakami book to start with, I really can't recommend this one, simply because it is so much more different than the other books. Try the Wind-up Chronicle or A Wild Sheep Chase. And have fun. Reading Murakami for the first time is on e of the greatest experiences you can have.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1.0 out of 5 stars GET THE ALFRED BIRNBAUM TRANSLATION, Aug. 17 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
It's not "Norwegian Wood" the story itself that I give 1 star to- it's the Jay Rubin translation. Over a decade ago I bought the Alfred Birnbaum translation, and I find Birnbaum to be a far superior translator to Rubin. Rubin's translation of certain sensual phrases from the Japanese turn into stale duds of sentences compared to Birnbaum's more heartfelt ones. Moreover, Rubin deletes words, sentences and paragraphs as he feels fit- Birnbaum does not make as vast edits as Rubin does. In this version of NW, Rubin writes that Murakami has approved this as the official translation. I'm sorry to say that although Murakami is my favorite author in the whole world, I have heard him lecture and his spoken English is remarkably terrible- he may know how to translate written English to Japanese really well, but he could use to learn about translating from his native language to English. I've rattled on long enough- but let it be said, Birnbaum's translation is far superior- and if you do not live in Japan, then go to your local Japanese bookstore in America like Kinokuniya or Asahiya and get it- leave this disgrace of a translation on the shelf.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars A Mirror for Readers, April 8 2002
By 
PseudoDionysius (Bloomington, IN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
This is my second Murakami book. The first was his Akutagawa prize winner from a while ago that did not leave enough of an impression to imprint the title in memory.
But now, this book is positively refreshing after trying to wade through the acclaimed Japanese literature of recent years! Notice how simple and unassuming the prose is, contrary to other contemporary work that doesn't make it over here for good reason. Of course, this novel has accessibility going for it. Main character Toru Watanabe is practically immersed in Western imports: he is reading "Magic Mountain", Conrad, Euripides, or Boris Vian, etc. with very scant reference to any Japanese work. Which makes it a relatively easy port to English and the translation loses little.
The main strength of the book I think is the atmosphere that it creates; it is truly one of a kind, more rarefied in effect than Salinger to whom this book owes certain similarities (Toru is likened to Holden at one point). It is a world where sex is narrated often but with cleanly wantonness, a world where time is stagnant and politics recede far to the background (Midori's quip about Marxist-poseurs in a university is exquisite - also shows Toru's apoliticalness, unfortunately very common in Japan), and above all a world where men and women are disarmingly honest about life, sex, and how they truly feel. Now except for the last item, the mindset is not far removed from that of a young contemporary Japanese, like me, which explains the popularity. Many people in Japan condemn Murakami for writing "fluff", but this is not true. Afterall, the core moral is stated in the very beginning of the book, that death is a part WITHIN life and not outside it (curiously Japanese sentiment from a most un-Japanese writer - check Ivan Morris' "Nobility of Failure"), and the book is his attempt to come to grip with this unconsoling truth. That, certainly, is not a trivial lesson to live with and you will live through it, all of it, from enervating boredom down to sexual agony, with Toru.
In conclusion, this book, then, is for readers who are willing to see their own life reflected in the somewhat distorted but wonderful mirror of Murakami's making. Afterall, isn't this the mark of a great novel?
Oh, and to that reviewer who was so surprised by the unpuritanical ethics in a Japanese book: if reading anything by Tanizaki or the first few pages of Kawabata's "Snow Country" (why is he sniffing that finger?) doesn't convince you, consider any chapter of the Genji, or the nastier love-letters in the Man-yo Shu (the bit about the "bag" he will wear until next he sees her). The clincher is the story in Konjaku Monogatari about a man who masturbates with a suggestive looking vegetable and his daughter eats it and ... well, you take it from there. Prudish ethics has never was a forte of good Japanese literature.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars A Mirror for Readers, April 8 2002
By 
PseudoDionysius (Bloomington, IN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
This is my second Murakami book. The first was his Akutagawa prize winner from a while ago that did not leave enough of an impression to imprint the title in memory.
But now, this book is positively refreshing after trying to wade through the acclaimed Japanese literature of recent years! Notice how simple and unassuming the prose is, contrary to other contemporary work that doesn't make it over here for good reason. Of course, this novel has accessibility going for it. Main character Toru Watanabe is practically immersed in Western imports: he is reading "Magic Mountain", Conrad, Euripides, or Boris Vian, etc. with very scant reference to any Japanese work. Which makes it a relatively easy port to English and the translation loses little.
The main strength of the book I think is the atmosphere that it creates; it is truly one of a kind, more rarefied in effect than Salinger to whom this book owes certain similarities (Toru is likened to Holden at one point). It is a world where sex is narrated often but with cleanly wantonness, a world where time is stagnant and politics recede far to the background (Midori's quip about Marxist-poseurs in a university is exquisite - also shows Toru's apoliticalness, unfortunately very common in Japan), and above all a world where men and women are disarmingly honest about life, sex, and how they truly feel. Now except for the last item, the mindset is not far removed from that of a young contemporary Japanese, like me, which explains the popularity. Many people in Japan condemn Murakami for writing "fluff", but this is not true. Afterall, the core moral is stated in the very beginning of the book, that death is a part WITHIN life and not outside it (curiously Japanese sentiment from a most un-Japanese writer - check Ivan Morris' "Nobility of Failure"), and the book is his attempt to come to grip with this unconsoling truth. That, certainly, is not a trivial lesson to live with and you will live through it, all of it, from enervating boredom down to sexual agony, with Toru.
In conclusion, this book, then, is for readers who are willing to see their own life reflected in the somewhat distorted but wonderful mirror of Murakami's making. Afterall, isn't this the mark of a great novel?
Oh, and to that reviewer who was so surprised by the unpuritanical ethics in a Japanese book: if reading anything by Tanizaki or the first few pages of Kawabata's "Snow Country" (why is he sniffing that finger?) doesn't convince you, consider any chapter of the Genji, or the nastier love-letters in the Man-yo Shu (the bit about the "bag" he will wear until next he sees her). The clincher is the story in Konjaku Monogatari about a man who masturbates with a suggestive looking vegetable and his daughter eats it and ... well, you take it from there. Prudish ethics has never was a forte of good Japanese literature.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars A uniquely personal and touching novel from Murakami., April 7 2002
By 
David J. Gannon (San Antonio, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
Written between Hard-Boiled Wonderland and Dance, Dance, Dance, Norwegian Wood is a very different sort of novel for Murakami.
Set in Tokyo and in a mountain sanatorium in the late sixties, it is, one suspects that this is a very autobiographical, Murakami's gentle protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. This is the story of a college student, Toru Watanabe, trying to find himself, to grow up, to make a commitment to someone, and to be true to that commitment.
The choice of the song Norwegian Wood as a title is appropriate, especially regarding the song's little known subtitle (take a look at the Rubber Soul album and you'll see it), This bird has flown.
Watanabe once had (and was had by) two girls, one of whom is sliding slowly into complete mental disintegration, (this would be the bird that has flown) the other - feisty, independent, but as desperately lonely as Watanabe - lodging the claims of love, life, and a warm body against those of past pledges-pledges Watanabe views somewhat differently than the girl in question.
... First of all, this is an early effort-one would expect a bit of a shortfall in the sophistication department given Murakami's age when hr wrote it. More importantly, however, is the subject matter. This is a story of personal introspection about a romance-not about the alienation and anomie inherent to complex, inhumane, technocratic societies. Of course the elements of style Murakami would impose on these two radically different subjects is different.
At it's core, this is a tale of loss. Watanabe ends up losing his love in various ways and to various degrees throughout the book till she's finally totally gone in the end. The book is about how Watanabe copes with these various elements of loss.
I can understand why some fans of this author would find the book disconcerting as it is well outside the typical structure of a Murakami novel and the effects of this departure, given the extraordinarily distinct style Murakami normally utilizes, seem magnified over what would be expected from a more mainstream author. Don't let such comments dissuade you from reading this novel. I greatly admire Murakami's other work and liked this as well. It's a book that can be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone willing to accept it for what it is rahten than impose their own expectations on it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars ido no soko ni, March 23 2002
By 
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
You know a book is good when it sells so many copies it shocks the author into moving halfway across the world.
It's not the selling a whackload of copies, it's the fact that Murakami was appalled that the book he called an "experiment" became his most popular work.
If you've never read any of Murakami's novels before, then you won't understand how entirely -different- Norwegian Wood is from them. Murakami is a guy who writes about strange women with magic ears, men possessed by malevolent sheep, evil politicians with magical powers of defilement, teenagers who push their boyfriends off motorcycles, and cybernetic mind control. The last thing one would expect from him is a pure and simple love story, but here it is, and fortunately or unfortunately, it is one of his most intriguing and skillful works.

The story's pretty easy to understand, but the layers of meaning are not. Murakami's fascination with wells might zoom right over the heads of readers who are either unaccustomed to his narrative, or aren't paying attention to metaphor.
Essentially, Norwegian Wood (yes, named after the song by the Beatles) is a love story, but one with unexpected twists of fate, tragedy, comedy, and stuffed with melancholia. Murakami might not write a very convincing 20-year old, but the slight over-maturity of the main character's voice can be ignored in favor of the insights he gives.

I wouldn't reccomend reading this book first if you're seriously interested in Murakami's works, it's not the best to represent his style. But if you aren't up for TV people or walking through walls, then read Norwegian Wood.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 310 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Norwegian Wood
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Paperback - Sept. 12 2000)
CDN$ 17.00 CDN$ 12.27
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews