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NORWEGIAN WOOD (Haruki Murakami)

Murakami is a strange reading experience.  If you like solid, fast-paced realism with a clear, satisfying ending - Murakami is probably not for you.  If you like something a little more gossamer and ethereal.  Something that floats around the edges of magical realism, or perhaps dips its toes lightly in a pond of peculiar every now and then - you will love Murakami.

Having said that, Norwegian Wood has no magical realism in it at all (sorry about that), but it still embodies that floaty, misty, breathy (how many adjectives can I insert here?) mood of his writing.  Norwegian Wood is a tale of a boy and a girl making their way gradually into adulthood.  One tragic event from their past keeps them joined, yet also keeps them apart.  Set in the late 60's amidst the urban mass of Tokyo, Murakami still manages to take this landscape and puff wistful. lonely tendrils down it's back alleys and dormitories.  And yet the story itself tackles the usual topics of early adulthood; love, sex, friendship, university, loneliness and confusion - time spent wondering what life's all about.  The novel ends in typical Murakami style, open-ended and open to interpretation.  The reader is left to ponder what might be.

When first published in Japan in 1987, Norwegian Wood was Murakami's break-through blockbuster.  So much so that he couldn't stand all the fuss and headed back to Europe until the hysteria died down.  The author has since been able to move back to his home country, but the cult status of Norwegian Wood remains.

I would have re-read certain passages to try and illicit the deeper meaning (there is always some sort of deeper meaning within the pages of Murakami novels), but someone from the library has the book on hold and I can't renew it.  I was tempted to "accidentally" cancel that user's hold, but I work for good, not evil.  Ahhh the heady power of the public librarian, it must be used wisely!

Norwegian Wood is classed as YA in my library, but I believe adults will enjoy it, too.  Do I think it's Murakami's best work?  Not really, I enjoyed Kafka on the Shore more, but it is still well worth a ready.  Anything of Murakami's is, really!

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