Norwegian Woods by Haruki Murakami


After attending an event on Haruki Murakami at the Singapore Writers Festival, I decided to try reading his book. This was chosen just in case for any reason I can’t continue,  I could at least watch the movie. My hubby watched the movie and told me it’s so slow he had to force himself to watch to the end. Surprisingly I quite enjoy the book. It’s easy to read (compare to IQ28 which my two sons described as weird) and I rather like the protagonist Toru Watanabe.  What I had a problem with, was trying to reconcile the conservative Japanese society to the promiscuity that was described in the book. Considering their young age, everyone seems to be having sex with each other.

It’s 1969 Japan and the Beatles is in vogue (hence the title, also the title of the song popularised by them). Toru is a 19 year old literature student living in the dorm who meets up with Naoko,  his late best friend’s girlfriend, both still coming to terms with his suicide. They had sex, she for the first time, and she was subsequently admitted to an asylum, suffering from schizophrenia. He visits and meets her roommate Reiko, who was admitted from a breakdown, result of a scandal after she was seduced by her 13 year old lesbian music student.
Meanwhile Toru meets fellow classmate Midori,  who flirts outrageously with him. He falls in love with her but there is Naoko.
Would he choose to remain with sick Naoko or a healthy Midori?
In the end, Naoko commits suicide. He then has sex with Reiko, who is almost twice his age before looking for Midori.
Perhaps it’s the Japanese society which I had confused with Korea where the ladies are more coy (from watching Korean dramas), or perhaps it’s 1969, before the scare of AIDS that there is so much promiscuity among university students.

Or perhaps I am just naive.

Plot aside, it’s rather difficult to believe the characters can tell such long detailed stories in a dialogue. And there are many such dialogues by different people narrating about their sad lives.

On the side, I thought I should mention that the topic for my Introduction to Psychology course with Coursera was mental illness when I was halfway through the book. Just saying.


About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
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