Norwegian Wood was not quite what I was expecting - the Murakami novels that I have read - A Wild Sheep Chase, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Dance Dance Dance, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Sputnik Sweetheart, Kafka on the Shore and After Dark - all seem to me to have some place in the genre of magical realism with a strange, seemingly absurd and often nearly incomprehensible blending of reality and fantasy. While some small parts of Norwegian Wood may have a very slight hint of the magical and absurd, it really does not belong to the same genre.
Norwegian Wood is a story of struggle and love during the late 1960s in Japan. The narrator is Toru Watanabe - a college student in Tokyo. The story follows his life for several years into his early twenties - and thru Toru we learn about a number of his friends and lovers. I have read that this novel was very popular in Japan - but I had trouble connecting with it, perhaps - in part - because I don't understand the setting? The last bit of the novel did give me an incredible feeling of nostalgia as Toru has his life transformed by love and death - but most of the novel was flat and my reading stretched out over several months... Perhaps a novel left to deeper and more knowledgeable Murakami fans.
Rating: 2 of 5 First Read Date: October 2011