Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood  is the story of Toru Watanabe, an inconspicuous student studying in Tokyo in the 1960’s.  An introvert by nature, an avid reader, borderline alcoholic, but by all means fairly normal.  He lives a busy life in a typical student dormitory, spending most of his time in class or in bed, at the library or wandering around the city on idle Sundays.

One day he runs into a girl he used to know from home.  Naoko.  Beautiful, quiet, idiosyncratic.  They came to Tokyo to get away from their old lives, to start again and move on.  But it’s harder than it seems.  Because Toru and Naoko are connected by the suicide of an old friend, and are both, in their own ways, struggling to deal with his death.  They walk all over Tokyo to pass the time and all the while the world is moving on around them.  It is the era of student riots, revolutions, of The Beatles and social change. And as Toru becomes enamored of her, Naoko retreats deeper into herself, further away from reality and hope.

Enter Midori – a quirky, sexually charged classmate who takes an instant liking to the quiet, almost preternaturally serious Toru.  She’s the stark opposite of Naoko, inappropriate and provocative, out-spoken, loud, fun-loving and full of mischief. Despite his love for Naoko, the more time Toru spends with Midori the more he likes her.

Naoko is like this wounded little bird that you know is too weak to make it.  Her fragility made her easy to love but I also fell for the mystery behind Naoko, the spiritual quality to her suffering.  She seemed like more of a device than a character, only necessary for Toru to feel the way he does, a tragic thing sacrificed to the world of the story.

But Midori stole the show.  In all her bizarre, perverted glory, she was more real than Naoko ever was.  It was frustrating watching Toru mess everything up, but you couldn’t blame him.  Midori was flesh and blood where Naoko was a dream.  Too good to be true.  Too beautiful.  But also far too damaged.

Norwegian Wood is a story to fall in love with, and a love story for dreamers and cynics alike.

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Toni is a reader, writer, blogger, and postgraduate student living in Christchurch. When not reading she enjoys road trips and going to the movies. Her favorite books are set in space, boarding schools, the ruins of civilization, and city streets. She loves a good love story, and characters that surprise and delight. You can follow her on Goodreads and Twitter.