Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Norwegian Wood

My next destination in the Orbis Terrarum challenge was Japan (yes..back to Asia! Can't seem to get it out of my system!).I was excited about the Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami because I had heard so many rave reviews about it. A little bit about Japan before I start off on the book:
Japan is an archipelago - a collection of around 3000 islands. Tokyo is the capital city and Yen is the official currency.

The one most striking feature of the book was the fact that it was a morbidly depressing book. It definitely totally pulled my spirits down. I am not saying it was a bad book. It was a very well written book and it had some element that kept pulling me back to it every time i put it down. I just had to go on and on until i finished the book and put it away. And even after I put the book away, it affected in a very different kind of a way. The world definitely seemed more gloomy and depressing and I had to quickly pick up a chick-lit to raise my spirits again.

The book is narrated by Toru Watanabe as a recount of his life. He recollects his life when we was in his late teens. When he was 17, he loses his best friend in life - Kizuki. The loss of a friend is traumatic enough. When coupled with the fact that the seemingly confident normal friend took his own life for some strange unknown reason I guess it magnifies the situation out of proportion. The loss of his friend puts Toru in a deeply depressed state for a while but he continues living - a living where every waking moment is a struggle.

The book is about Toru's life for a few years after the death of Kizuki. He meets new people, makes new friends, falls in love..and seemingly normal activities. But Toru seems to have a predilection for strange and depressed people. He meets and falls in love with Kizuki's girlfriend - Naoko. But Naoko is a very troubled person - having to deal with two suicides in her life - her sister and her boyfriend/best friend of many many years. When Naoko goes away to rehad, Toru meets Midori - a very strange person with an obsession for anything sex-related. And then, there's Nagasawa - a friend to replace Kizuki. but i must add,he is pretty strange too.
As you can see from just these couple of lines, the characters are all strange and many are depressed.. and the whole book has a gloomy air to it.
I sometimes wonder what it is that made this book so popular in Japan. Do the japanese enjoy reading dark gloomy books, or was it was the sexually explicit scenes and language.. or did they really appreciate the author for his unique style of writing and ability to make the characters actually seem real?
I am still really confused about what I actually feel for the book. I am not sure if i like it or not.. Maybe in a few more days, i would have assimilated the matter thoroughly and would be able to say more..


Lezlie said...

Books like this always take me a few days, or even weeks, to really decide how I feel about them. Not necessarily a bad thing! Sometimes they just get into your mind, and after some reflection a personal positive can be taken from what was a depressing book.


Ramya said...

I'm glad I am not the only one who feels that way! I am already beginning to feel better about the book. I was so depressed after reading the book, I couldn't write the review for a while!

Madeleine said...

I liked Norwegian Woods a lot. I noticed that in Japanese literature the subject of suicide comes up in many novels. I just finished BEAUTY AND SADNESS by Kawabata, I also read his novel THE SOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN, great novels and will read all Kawabata's books, there to suicide is a subject which affects the story line. Kawabata by the way did comit suicide in 1972. I am going to ask Tanabata who lives in japan why this is so. You can find her blog on my blogroll "In the spring it is the dawn" she has a great blog.
Oh yes :D I am longwinded...:P I like books better than the movie version.

Ramya said...

Well, I guess I need to get used to the style of Japanese literature. Books surrounding topics like suicide affect me easily and it takes me a while to get out of it. I shall look up Tanabata's blog as well.. and yeah.. let me know what she says about suicide being such a prevalent theme in japanese literature.