Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

There’s nothing that can bring back the memories of one you have loved quite so much as music. I hear the theme of Taxi (Bob James’ Angela), or the Stones singing Sympathy for the Devil, and I’m immediately overwhelmed by sensations connected to my first husband. I can feel him more when I’m listening to those musical strains than I can by trying to picture his face.

Toru Watanabe finds the same thing happens to him when he hears the Beatles’ Norwegian Wood. He is immediately so overcome by the memories of Naoke that he sits on the plane with his head in his hands, and the stewardess asks him if he’s okay. He’s just dizzy, he explains, but I know how much it hurts to relive a love affair which ended so abruptly. For how does one cope with suicide?
No matter how much pain the person who died must have felt, there must be little comprehension of the pain which is left behind. There is no resolution to the relationship, no farewell, no understanding as to why such a thing happened. “Surely,” we think, “if given the opportunity and the time, we could have fixed that broken heart.”
But Toru is left with his own broken heart to fix, and while he has a relationship with Midori upon which he can now fully focus, it does not eradicate the place which Naoko once occupied. No one can replace another.
I found myself writing down the names of authors Murakami included in his narrative, names like:  Truman Capote, John Updike, Scott Fitzgerald, and Raymond Chandler whereas the rest of his peers “liked Kazumi Takahashi, Kenzaburo Oe, Yukio Mishima or contemporary French novelists…” (p. 30) He listed novels such as Beneath The Wheel by Herman Hesse, The Centaur by John Updike, and The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald which make me want to read all three. Even though I’ve already read the last one countless times.
I found myself writing down quotes, most especially from the beginning of the novel which I shared in an earlier post.
I found myself comparing Toru and I, and finding many similarities between us: we are both quiet, peaceful and lonely; we both like novels no one else seems to and are greatly affected by music. As well as lost love.
I found connections to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle within the pages of Norwegian Wood. Toru says, “I miss you something awful sometimes, but in general I go on living with all the energy I can muster. Just as you take care of the birds and the fields every morning, every morning I wind my own spring. I give it some thirty-six good twists by the time I’ve gotten up, brushed my teeth, shaved, eaten breakfast, changed my clothes, left the dorm, and arrived at the university. I tell myself, “O.K., let’s make this day another good one.” I hadn’t noticed before, but they tell me I talk to myself a lot these days, Probably mumbling to myself while I wind my spring.” (p. 197)
It’s wonderful to read several works by one favorite author because I feel like I’m getting to know him better with each novel I complete. Am I presuming to say that I know Haruki Murakami? Not at all. But, I love living in his world. One book at a time.
Find other reviews from my reading buddies as they are completed this last week of November. I will link to them here when they are published. ReBelle’s review is here, Claire’s here, Nadia’s here, and C. B.’s here.

22 thoughts on “Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami”

  1. Bellezza, I've just started reading this one and already I am loving it. Murakami just knows how to write characters so well. I loved your post and can understand how you could relate to Toru. Music is an essential part of my life and many times when I hear a certain song, it reminds me of a certain relationship or moment in my life. I love when that happens – sometimes the memories can be so strong and you feel as if you are back in that moment. I'm really looking forward to finishing the book.


  2. Haruki Murakami has a way of making me identify with him? his characters? so completely. I really love his work. I've added your review to my post (as you can probably see).


  3. I can't say that this is one of my favorites, but I did enjoy it very much. It's certainly one of the more realistic novels I've read by him. It would probably be a good place to start for someone new to Murakami's writing.


  4. Nadia, I think I almost like the first half of the book more than the second! The connection to music and sorrow was really piercing to me. I'm looking forward to reading your review when you're done.


  5. i read so much Murakami last year and then I realized that I was reading his books faster than he was writing them, so I slowed down this year… one or two books at a time 🙂 I simply love his work!


  6. Ally, I know just what you mean. I only have about three books by Murakami as yet unread, and I'm in no hurry to finish them for then there won't be any more until he writes another.


  7. I think half of my time I live in Murakami's world. Every time I read his book, I feel like he has written it for me. I have about 3 books of Murakami I have yet to finish and I am thinking of taking my time to read it because I don't want to think I have finished reading his books…. (I actually wrote this before I saw similar thoughts of yours just above this comment).
    I'm happy you find Norwegian Wood speaking to you Bellezza.


  8. Hi, JoV! I just sent the du Maurier to you in the mail earlier this week. My goodness, it's been a busy autumn Chez Bellezza!

    Glad to see we concur on Murakami. As usual. 🙂


  9. I'm afriad that I won't make the Nov. 30 post date. I've just started the book so my review won't be up until some time next week, probably.

    But just two chapters into the book; I find myself back at home.


  10. Please don't be rushed by arbitrary time schedules set up by me; I'm so glad you're home, which is where I felt as well, and I look forward to your thoughts when you're ready.


  11. I loved it. Just finished this afternoon. We're leaving for a friend's birthday dinner so after I prepared everything and fixed the kids up and myself did a hurried post. Thankfully I had time to upload the picture I took yesterday. But anyway, I just wanted to make the post up before it was December but have to go and will be back to reflect on your thoughts and others. xx


  12. Your post reminded me how much I liked Norwegian Wood, although I didn't find it an easy read.

    I have The Wind-up Bird Chronicle on my shelf – would you recommend it?


  13. Hi again B, thanks so much for sharing with us your memories about your first husband. It's true, one of the loveliest things about Norwegian Wood is the fact that it resonates with our experience connecting music with memory. Music is maybe the ultimate carrier of nostalgia.

    I love that you listed down the literary references. I sort of feel a kinship with Toru as well (thus, the author), with what he was reading. Making a conscious note to add some of those to my wish list, particularly the Herman Hesse, which I'm intrigued by.

    I don't remember much about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle but the well, but I'm certain I will never forget Norwegian Wood. It really touched me. And it's interesting how you and I both relate to a different character.. you with Toru and me with Naoko. Personal experiences differ, still there's always something here that touches us in a universal way. Both very personal and universal.

    Thanks so much for letting us read along with you and for hosting the Jap lit challenge. I never was much of a Murakami fan but this book made me one. xx


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