Monday, January 5, 2009

Wendell Edwards' 30 Second Book Review:
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

I just finished reading this book for the second time in six years, and I’ve found it even more rewarding. It could be called a coming-of-age love story, with its themes of emotional maturity explored through the protagonist’s relationships with the women in the book. It is set in Japan in the late 1960s, with the music of the time playing a key role, and some commentary on the unrest of the time added. Like Murakami’s other earlier works, the protagonist considers himself (his early protagonists were always male) an average sort of guy, though through chance occurrences he meets up with unique characters who can see his uniqueness and special qualities when he still can’t recognize them. Unlike Murakami’s other earlier works, Norwegian Wood aims to be a human story, focusing on the human dramas instead of the usual supernatural, magical-realist themes. For the author, it was a challenge, and it turned out to be an incredibly successful venture, exploding his readership in his home country of Japan to such a degree that he felt the need to leave the country for a few years. Norwegian Wood is very much for adults, with dark themes running through it. Like his other books, there aren’t many resolutions, but it has a sense of momentum and even a glimmer of hope at the end, which, for the characters you’ve grown to care for, is all one could wish.