Hello blogsphere. Again I find that my blogging is flagging a fair way behind my reading. However, some weeks back I read my first Japanese novel: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
The novel begins with a 37-year-old man named Watanabe in an aeroplane, who finds his mind suddenly taken back – by a Beatles’ song – to events that took place many years previously. The remainder of the novel is his nostalgic account of the events of his youth, 20 years earlier, in late-60s Tokyo.
This is a tale of love and of loss and of youth and of discovery. While there is happiness and humour in parts, it is also a fairly intense read, containing pretty hefty dollops of loneliness, relationships that are intense by anyone’s standards, characters struggling with mental health issues, and even suicide. The book was hugely popular in Japan upon its release, and I certainly enjoyed it, but it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
I said that this was a fairly intense narrative, and part of the intensity comes from the fact that there are actually very few characters. In fact, the majority of the book revolves around Watanabe and his complex relationships with two very different women.
First we meet Naoko, who was the girlfriend of his best friend growing up. Naoko is quiet and beautiful and lyrical but is a troubled soul, who can never seem to escape her past. Later on in the novel Watanabe meets Midori, a loud, witty, self-confident young lady, who is so very different from Naoko. Midori is a party girl, who says what she thinks, and enjoys shocking others. However, we discover that her confident exterior is also hiding an inner vulnerability.