TW: Death, Depression, Sexual harassment, Rape, Suicide
The synopsis of this book goes something like this:
“Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before.”
I’m not quite sure what I think about this book. Let me explain!
I’ve read Murakami before… I read Kafka on the Shore back in January 2020, and it is still one of my favourite books of all time. I’m genuinely in love with Murakami’s writing style, with his eloquence, his world-building, how when he describes food you can actually taste it, and when he describes a place you feel like you are actually there. He has obviously mastered his language, and the translator of his work is a genius.
One of the other reasons, I think, Norwegian Wood strikes a chord with readers is for its themes of mental illness and suicide. Mental health is not the most discussed topic, least of all in the 80s when this book was first published.
There are, however, a lot of problems in his books. I probably didn’t notice these in Kafka on the Shore because of its lack of relevant female characters.
All the female characters in this novel feel cartoonish, one-dimensional and are emotionally dependent on men. Most male characters are self-centred, and our male narrator spends most of his time objectifying the women around him. Not to mention that, for some inexplicable reason, every woman in this book wants to have sex with the main character. This is particularly baffling because the main character has nothing, NOTHING going for him.
Moreover, there is an entire rape scene described in detail in chapter 6, which is not only extremely disturbing but completely irrelevant to the plot.
All in all, I’m unable to rate this book. The immorality present in this story is not something I can compare to Lolita, for example, where it is very much intended given the overall purpose of that specific narrative. I feel like the misogyny present in Norwegian Wood is very likely to be a subproduct of Murakami’s mindset. If that is the case, I need to contemplate how that changes how I approach his writhing.
Please, let me know what to think about this book.
Bye, keep on reading.
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