Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

I don’t usually tend to write proper reviews for books I did not like that much, but I had such a specific experience with this book that I decided to do it anyway.

I have been wanting to read Murakami for a long time, and I like starting with author’s older works and then work my way up to the newer ones. I went into this not really knowing anything about it, which I mostly tend to do with these sorts of books. However, that was a mistake this time. While this is the most famous Murakami book, or at least the one I heard most praise about, it’s not what I was looking for in his writing. Meaning this book didn’t have any magical realism in it, which is fine, just not what I was expecting.

While it is indisputable that Murakami can write, I did not really enjoy this book. His writing is really specific, and he does know how to set the tone and create an atmosphere, but I just did not care for the story he was trying to tell.

I found the main character, Toru, so incredibly annoying that I almost put this book down a dozen times. I feel like he is what Holden Caulfield would be if he was not witty and sarcastic and clever and I finally understood why people hate Caulfield so much. Toru is indecisive, bland and he constantly feels sorry for himself. This was a classic story about a guy who is having trouble finding himself, and while I can appreciate some of those, this one wasn’t executed so well for me personally.

Structure-wise, this story is heavily based on dialogue, and most of what it’s trying to do is conveyed through dialogue. While I usually enjoy that, the dialogue in this book felt (at times) really strained, awkward and unnatural. To me it never felt like real, actual people were talking. I felt so disconnected from their conversations.

This book had some shinning moments, most of which revolved around Murakami’s writing ability and some general thoughts about life that were interwoven into the main story, told in snippets of conversations between characters.

Also a huge problem for me: I truly hated how Murakami wrote his female characters. I hate when girls are these romanticized special snowflakes, with supposed depth and uniqueness, that is actually quite surface level.

All this hasn’t discouraged me to read more Murakami, mostly because my main issue is the story, and I actually really like his writing.

So if you have read anything by Murakami, let me know how you like his books, and also please recommend me some of his magical realism books!

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