It’s been a couple of weeks since I finished the book and had last updated this silence of a blog. Aside that I barely had the time, I was speechless and sad and overwhelmed and confused after the last pages of Norwegian Wood.
Not that the story had a mindfuck plot; but it was simple and silent and sharp and acute that it made me quite affected and question a lot of things about myself. But well, I’m also stressed these days so I might be hormonally dramatic due to that or PMS.
Norwegian Wood (ノルウェイの森) Author: Haruki Murakami Genre: Coming-of-Age, Fiction Year Published: 1987 Publisher: The Harvill Press London
The story presents itself with the point-of-view of Toru, a pensive and quaintly clever lad as the song “Norwegian Wood” by The Beatles gets played after a long flight. The tune throws him back to memories from his late teens to his 20s, which mostly revolve on the beautiful yet psychologically-suffering Naoko.
Honestly, I was initially bored with the book. I also started out disliking Naoko because I judged her as weak. But yes, sure, Naoko is weak; her character failed to evolve into something stronger but then I slowly found an appeal in her lack of strength – I found elegance in the way she tend to think deeply of things and I found beauty in her resolve to be unsuitably devoted with the dead. And the same goes for the quiescently pursuing Toru.
At the first parts, Norwegian Wood was a usual coming-of-age story told in the complexities of an unusual love triangle. However, it was more than that. I love how the characters eventually realized in the end that emotional dependence is not love. It was also subtly shown how improperly-consented sex (though mutually enjoyed) could unconsciously bear life-long trauma; as with the case of Naoko that I had only realized when she finally made a point that she “won’t be violated like that again.” It was sad how all along she carried the guilt of enjoying it while at the same time she’s disgusted with herself.
But then, heavy things aside, there were also a lot of laughs in the book c/o Storm Trooper and Midori. Storm Trooper (a nickname) is Toru’s neat-freak roommate who was believed to be wanking on maps and architectural photos. (Too bad it was a joke.) And then Midori, on the other hand, is Toru’s aggressive, spontaneous, and opinionated classmate who completes the plot’s love triangle.
I like the peek on the sexual culture of Japan through the characters in Norwegian Wood. Though the story mostly focuses on Toru, Naoko, and Midori, Reiko ended up to be my favorite character. Reiko is Naoko’s roommate in the sanatorium who later becomes Toru and Naoko’s deeply trusted confidante. Though Reiko was out of the love triangle, I think her connection with Toru was the most admirable, in fact, nearly verging on being platonic.
I’ve heard people hating Reiko for what had happened at the final parts. However, I felt that it would just be natural for things to unfold like it had, given Toru and Reiko’s connection with one another. And yet, though I am not a huge Midori fan, I have to say I was rooting for her and Toru. I felt that they deserve and balance each other well; that it would be healthy for them to be together.
The book ended vaguely and I had no idea if it was the same with the film (which I still have to see). Instead of coming into a conclusion or a resolution of things, the book’s ending throws you to speculate on what might have been the fate of Toru in relation to Midori. But I guess the gist of the story is more or less encapsulated in one of Reiko’s final pieces of advice:
“…You need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a lifetime, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.”