Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami fulfills the
category “Book Set in
Japan” for the PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge. The book takes place in Tokyo.
I have some things about this book. But starting with
the prompt is best.
The novel was a great choice for the prompt. Toru
lives in Tokyo as a student. He meets a young woman, Naoka, on the street one
day. The two used to be friendly in high school through a mutual friend,
Kuzuki. Naoka grew up with Kuzuki, and they were dating. Toru was his best
friend. The boy committed suicide, devastating both of them. When they meet
again in Tokyo, Toru ends up walking with Naoko all over the city and
I have no concept of Tokyo except from Godzilla
movies. I enjoyed hearing all the places they went and how they got there. The
walking and train travel said much about the city and their relationship. And
the reader got a walking tour of the city. Perfect for the prompt.
After I read the book (audio again, which helped with
pronunciation), I did a little research to find out why the book is so acclaimed.
It’s on all my list challenge
prompts as a modern classic. People who’ve read it, rave about it. I wasn’t delighted
with the story. There seem to be two camps—loved or hated—no in-between. I didn’t
hate it, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Ugh, I’m trying not to trash a novel the
world raves about. But that’s half of the blog posts I write, right?
For me, the book was long, drawn-out, and boring. It
was not a love story despite several recommendations I saw for it. It’s a journey of maturity, but
I’m not sure Toru ever gets there. He seems very lost the entire story,
passive, and unthinking. He’s a slug, moving through the world. his love for
Naoko, a woman he can never be with, stops him from living.
schoolwork baffled me. Why study a subject you have no interest in?
the other woman, Midori, appeared, I had hope for him to begin living, but no.
We slogged on through more chapters with no life to our Toru. How can I root
for a protagonist who doesn’t live?
Another thing that threw me about the novel (and the
book’s age might be the
answer) was the sexuality embedded in the story. Sex, homosexuality (only for
women), and masturbation were discussed freely and in public. I have no problem
with a story that realizes sexuality is part of the human condition and actually
happens in real life. (I write romance after all). But the writing felt juvenile,
like a middle schooler seeing what they could get away with. (I was that middle
schooler…) It was blunt, almost harsh. Tenderness was absent, even in the sex
scenes. Dry and blunt do not make for salacious reading, and I understand that wasn’t
the purpose of those scenes. Perhaps I’m missing how dead Toru was inside.
Therefore he did everything with a zombie-like mentality.
A few other tidbits bothered me. Toru slept with
almost all the female characters. Eww, especially Naoko’s friend. Very egomaniacal. Also, every female seemed damaged.
Two ended up dead from suicide, one was ostracized because of her sexual talk,
and a third was in a mental institution. Is this how the author sees females or
how the protagonist does? Am I, as a reader, supposed to believe Japanese women
are like this? Yeah, I don’t think so.
I finished the book, I considered asking my thirteen-year-old for a manga
recommendation with strong female Japanese protagonists. Again the age of the
novel might be part of it, but this woman is tired of male authors trashing
females to build up the male ego. I’d rather read a story about Midori where
she kicks butt and takes names.
Welp, I guess you can tell Norwegian Woods was
not my cup of tea. It’s
too late in the year to find another book for the prompt. I promise next week
there will be a book I loved (and read twice for the blog).
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami Three Beatles Songs.