Sunday, 10 June 2012

Norwegian Wood - #7

I wasn't expecting this book. I again have heard wonderful things about it. But I am going to plead something that I hate doing, but I think I was an ethnocentric Westerner. I think I combined Haruki Murakami and Kazuo Ishiguro, both of which I wish to read and have it seems slightly fantastical, futuristic and almost sci fi elements in their fiction. But that wasn't Norwegian Wood.

Norwegian Wood is named, thank goodness, after the Beatles song. That would have driven me mad otherwise. It is set at the turn of the 60s and 70s, with Toru Wanatabe heading to University in Tokyo and learning about himself and in turn love. However his learning about love is long, and more complicated than you could  really imagine.

I guess that is the benefit of fiction at times. You can have these characters experiencing things that seem so far fetched, in a way so you don't have to. Or so you can work through your own response to those scenarios just in case they ever eventuate for you. But you feel for Wanatabe. You wish for him to fall for a normal and uncomplicated woman. Although part of you wonders if he falls for incredibly complicated women as he is borderline boring himself.

I will say however, that this is not a book to read if you do not want graphic sexual descriptions. And it does make it uncomfortable to read on the Tube/Metro/SMRT system in Singapore as in our heads at least, it is considered a very conservative place. Surrounded by headscarfs and people who at least (yes, see above, judgey Westerner, I hate it) look like they are Hindu or Muslim it makes it hard to read passages about noises made during sex. Although there were other times when there were many teenagers (either Chinese, Malay, Indian, or European) in tiny clothes rubbing up against each other in those trains.... Point is Singapore is complex, and it made this book uncomfortable at times. But that was my own issues... Maybe don't take it to read in the Middle East.

But in summary, beautifully written. I think I could have hated the story and still loved the book. Looking forward to reading more of this author. Loved that it was set in Tokyo as I have spent a few days there and could imagine quiet vividly some of the settings.

I did want to drink Midori while reading it due to Midori's name in the book (which simply means "green" in Japanese), but even better was we had bought some Choya plum wine duty free (well the expensive stuff, but this is what we drink at home) and spent a few nights after coming in from the sweaty crowds and bustling markets to sitting reading this book and some ice cold, Japanese plum wine (if you haven't tried this stuff, you *have* to). Perfect, or in one of my few Japanese phrases: totemo oishii desu. 4 stars.

Next: Solomon Islands with Devil-Devil


  1. I think Murakami has many sides to him. This book and Sputnik Sweetheart are much more about relationships, including sex, without that fantastical element that I so enjoy with him. I was picturing you blushing on the SMRT, haha!

  2. Hehe my partner always knew I was reading a dirty bit because I pulled the book right up to my face. I was sure there was a fine or something for reading sex scenes on public transport. There seemed to be a fine for just about everything else!