Upon hearing the Beatles song Norwegian Wood, Toru Watanabe started to remember his youth and the women who featured prominently in his life.
Naoko is the girlfriend of Toru’s best friend, Kizuki, who killed himself. The two of them grow closer in the wake of his death, and Toru believes he is in love with the troubled Naoko, to the point where he offers to wait for her while she attempts to find peace of mind in a sanatorium, however long it takes.
Midori is a girl taking the same class as Toru, and the two become close friends. It is not until much later, and possibly because of his situation with the fragile Naoko that Toru realises his real feelings for Midori.
I read 1Q84 by the same author and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to reading this. At first I wasn’t sure whether it was for me – it lacked the fantasy element of 1Q84 and was far more grounded in reality (although in the translator’s note at the end this was exactly what Murakami was going for, a simple, direct tale, as a writing adventure or challenge).
I continued reading and somewhere along the line the narrative really gripped me and I couldn’t put the book down. I really liked Midori as a character, and felt a little frustrated that it took Toru so very long to realise and acknowledge his feelings for her.
The writing is beautiful, with some really good imagery, and thought-provoking ideas.
Overall, a good read, if not initially what I was anticipating.
My rating: 3/5