Being 17 felt like a long time ago, as did being 20. And I’m only 22! A lot happens within a year without much realisation, and looking back often brings back the fondest feelings, with the attached essence of melancholy. Norwegian Wood dips into the past of Watanbe’s youthful days. Ones full of love and loss. And lots of music references and awkward sex. Wouldn’t be a Murakami book without those features, would it?
Norwegian Wood (named after the Beatles song I don’t think I’ve heard) is a Murakami story which keeps itself within the realm of our everyday reality. No talking frogs or raining fish here. The protagonist Watanabe thinks back to his days at university when he fell for his dead best friends ex Naoko, who had a lot of mental issues due to the trauma. She’s pretty far off at an institute recovering by drinking wine and hanging out with her guitar playing friend, which sounds pretty cosy, so Watanabe has to hold back and wait. But that’s not exactly easy when he meets the far more appealing and slightly loopy Midori. He has to make the choice between the woman of his past or this woman of his present. And he doesn’t half um and arr over it.
While the story doesn’t delve into the dreamy fantasy often associated with Murakami’s works, Norwegian Wood still has that quality thanks to the little moments brought to light with a slightly titled view. Each moment and action has some symbolism behind it and it isn’t long before the tale of the rather whiny Watanabe becomes a past you wish you has lived. Even if most of the stuff which happens is rather mundane or lonely. The way Murakami writes always makes even a rainy day sat inside appear better than anything you could be doing right now. Apart from reading his books. Of course.
Norwegian Woods isn’t the perfect romance though as it teeters into Murakami’s bad habits. Name drops for songs and books are plentiful, though this time it isn’t jazz. There is the thought that these are the bands and stories he wants to push forward to the reader that he likes, rather than hold much significance to the characters personalities. Not everyone you meet can be into French novels and classical music, right? For the first few chapters I was sure I’d read this story word for word elsewhere due to how familiar it all was. But then that was because I had read part of this story before! Murakami went and made a short story out of some of the early events. You cad! I wonder which came first…
Awkward sex is also pouring out of the pages, and it seems there is some erection waiting to happen at least once per chapter. Sometimes it can be fairly arousing… okay. I didn’t just say that.
Norwegian Wood is relatively normal in concept, but it makes for a story which is entirely relatable and creates a desire to snatch this past away and make it your own. And now I have an erection. Guess if I take on this past I do have to take the embarrassing moments with me. Thems the breaks.