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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

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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


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5.0 out of 5 stars Sad and painful, Feb. 27 2004
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This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
What is it about these Japanese writers that are able to make prose sound like Poetry? I am a fan of Banana Yoshimoto, another Japanese writer, whose book "the Kitchen" is one of my favorites. Norwegian Wood deals with the same "life after (the) death (of a close person)" issues and what it does to those left behind. However, whereas "the Kitchen" is a short, condensed book which brings on, alongside the feelings of grief and pain a very strong passion for life and all it has to offer, Norwegian Wood is a very long (at least - it feels like very long) tale with a lot of detailed inside reflection and thought.
I was not expecting this book to be what it is - a wonderful, dark piece of art. A heavy shadow clings to your heart while reading this story and the feeling of sadness and very deep sorrow is overwhelming and stays with you for a long time. I was therefore surprised to read that this book is described as an "erotic love story". It is true that the book has many sex scenes, but the sex is so painful and so connected to the overall grave feeling of the book that it brings no comfort. Also, the words "love story ", seem - so I feel - to simplify this very complicated story.
Reading the translator's note at the end of the book I understand that the story has some autobiographical points, especially in the portrayal of a Japanese student life in the 70 years. For me however, this was a very personal inner account of a difficult time in a young man's life - a period that will leave its deep marks and in many ways will shape the man he is about to become. Norwegian Wood deals with questions of loyalty - to yourself, to the dead and the living and discusses the thin line between sanity and insanity. Most of all you are a participant to the hero's inner world - his feelings and the process of his falling in love - what he is drawn to and what captures his heart.
Highly recceomended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Anna Karenina, Feb. 16 2004
By 
John I. Provan "enkindu" (St. Charles, IL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
The best love story I have ever read. All of Murakami's works are excellent but this is his best. If you haven't read him then buy this book now - excellent - you will not put it down until you are down with it. Don't get me wrong Anna Karenina is a great novel and a classic by any degree but this novel is just a little better.
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5.0 out of 5 stars So much life., Feb. 15 2004
By 
Daniel C. Wilcock "journal-ist" (Washington, D.C.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
What a book.
This is Murakami's love ballad, a story that builds to a moving climax. There is so much life here.
Whereas 'a wild sheep chase' is bebop and 'a wind up bird chronicle' is free jazz, this book is a sad lovers ballad - with human frailty and sex and delusion and futility and ultimately affirmation and resolution.
One of the best novels I've ever read - comparable to Milan Kundera's 'the unbearable lightness of being,' only with Murakami's unique stamp.
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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!
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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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I can only shake my head over this great book, April 18 2003
By 
David A. Sommer (Atlanta) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
What a book. My advice is to start early in the day, and preferably not on a work night. The book just can't be put down; I read it in one sitting! Murakami is a gifted story teller, even now I feel like I read it just yesterday. Like the other reviewers I am sure I will revisit this again in the future.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Turning into an adult, March 7 2003
By 
J Parreira - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
Very nice book. It tells, in a very delicate and sensitive way, the story of a Young japanese boy getting out of his teens and going into adulthood. Life is hard, it is very tough to assume responsibilities and to measure one's reach towards other people. Although there is not very uncommon about this boy's life, it is also very unique in the sense that all his emotions and experiences are his own and no one else's. Not very different from ourselves, anywhere in the world. This book is full of common life day to day poetry. Highly recommended.
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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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding, Feb. 3 2003
By 
William Black "buddman921" (La Vergne, TN United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
It is one of those books that comes along and sneaks up on you. By the time you put it down you realized that it has moved you. When Watanabe read Midori's letter I felt an emptiness in my stomach as if she had written the letter to me. The whole book is like this. You can't help but fall in love with the characters.
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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.
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Norwegian Wood
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Paperback - Sept. 12 2000)
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