I’ve recently been intrigued by the work of Haruki Murakami. He writes books that works more powerfully than a magnet drawn to each other. The cleverly written plots and twists develops like an addiction that you cannot get enough of, let alone put the book down. Being a huge Beatles fan, it was impossible to resist Norwegian Wood. If you don’t’ already know, Norwegian Wood is a song by The Beatles released from their album Rubber Soul. It is also the title of a Murakami novel titled Noruwei no Mori, that was directly translated to Norwegian Wood. The track was written by John Lennon, intended to symbolize the affair he was hiding from his then wife, Cynthia. As I write this, Norwegian Wood serenades me.
Although the book started off a little too slowly for me, it involved a whirlpool of emotions. The lead character, Toru Watanabe reminded me so much of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. For one, they both loved reading especially their favourite books, they both had a way with words, they both had a womanizer friend and had many drunken nights. In fact, I was surprised when Reiko, one of the characters in the book asked Toru if he was trying to imitate Holden when she first met him somewhere in the middle of the book.
Now the part that most intrigued me was how the song Norwegian Wood came to life through the characters in the story. When John sang, “I once had a girl or should I say she once had me” at the beginning of Norwegian Wood, it reminded me of how Toru developed a somewhat unstable romantic relationship with Naoko. It was too complicated to define but they always ‘had’ each other. “She showed me her room, isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood? She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere, So I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair .I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine We talked until two and then she said, “It’s time for bed” – When Toru visited Naoko in the sanatorium, her roommate Reiko takes him up and shows him the place. Although he did not quite end up in the bathtub, they did however unwind to some wine and talked for hours while Reiko played Naoko’s favourite song Norwegian Wood . In the book Naoko says whenever she heard the song, it made her sad as she imagines herself wandering into the woods, cold dark and lonely and nobody comes to save her.
John ends with “And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown, So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood”. This line reminded me of the time Naoko was found dead, a metaphor of the life she had chosen, the wings she had spread and how she had finally flown and preferred death as her destiny and have been reunited with Kizuki,( her ex-bf and Toru’s best friend).
This novel was no typical Murakami, if you’re familiar with his work but it sure was an interesting read. I for one could never be accustomed to death and the grief of loss. As I read the book, I somehow could relate to each character, including Naoko the unstable one perhaps due to a background in Psychology. The best part for me was the heavy Beatles elements that unfolded throughout the novel, Norwegian Wood not being the only song talked about. The detailed sexual narration that was heavily emphasized was pleasant to the eyes. It was deep, it was raw, and it was real. Norwegian Wood is not one of those novels that keeps you guessing, it is the one that has all the answers, it is the one that needed you to relate and feel the emotions that unfolded as you grasps every word and sentence through each page. My verdict – Read it!