My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Opening sentence: I was 37 then, strapped in my seat as the huge 747 plunged through dense cloud cover on approach to Hamburg airport.
I passed a bibliophile’s milestone this week. I read my first ever Marukami novel. The bookstagram book club I recently became part of chose Norwegian Wood as the first read-along novel and threw me right into the choppy waters of Haruki Marukami. And it wasn’t at all what I was expecting
Let me be perfectly blunt. I didn’t like this book and the end of it couldn’t come soon enough. If it wasn’t for the fact that I have a lovely family of booklovers, bookbloggers and bookstagrammers I would never pick up another Marukami book again. BUT fortunately I do and they have assured me that this was an unusual story and probably not one of the best choices for someone taking their first expedition in the strange land of Marukami. I am beyond relieved because I am actually repulsed by this story, where as I had very high expectations based on how highly acclaimed he is.
Where do I begin? It’s a twisted adolescent love story, as most adolescent love stories are, with way too many unnecessary graphic sex scenes. It had a collection of weak characters, and while they did their absolute best to explain themselves into deeper personalities, it was a total failure and felt forced. In a weird nutshell it was about a teenage boy who had sex with anyone and everyone and by the time he was done the story was over.
There were many points in the book where I thought the story was about to take an interesting turn and it turns out, nope, it’s just a prelude to sex. I know there are DIE hard Marukami fans who found depth and meaning in even the most mundane parts of this story out of loyalty to Marukami, and believe me I tried. There were times when I would put down the book and think okay, am I missing something ? Could there be something here I’m not seeing? But try as I might I could not squeeze depth out of any of it.
I apologize to the Marukami fandom. I realize I am way out of my element here. But for such a seasoned writer, it shouldn’t have felt like he was trying so hard. The main character for example, Watanabe, I have a feeling we’re supposed to see him as a deep thinking, intelligent old soul, as is obvious by the constant statements people make about him : “you talk like Humphrey Bogart” ” you are such an unusual thinker” “I would have never thought of it that way.” And I’m here thinking “that’s not because he’s smart it’s because you’re an idiot, you dumbass!”
Another gripe of mine was the increasingly irritating personalities of the female characters. From the first character Naoko, who was depressed beyond all reason but had no problem meekly submitting to doling out sexual pleasure for no particular reason, to the nymphomaniac Midori and her downright desperate tirades on her sexual desires, right up to Reiko who started off as a good character but quickly lost her appeal and honored the memory of her younger-sister-like-friend by screwing her boyfriend “in her memory”. Lovely. I fail to see what part of this was a love story. I’ve heard it’s not the norm for Marukami to make all his female characters revolve around sex as heavily as in this book.I can only hope so
I will say though, that despite being completely disgusted with this book and it’s unnecessary ramblings on the most mundane things, once I discussed it with other readers I realized that this was a book meant for people who are already fans of Haruki Marukami so that they can revel in the style of his writing that they love so much and see comparisons and similarities with other books. I’m glad somebody gets something out of this because I didn’t. I said before, as a first timer who was unfortunate enough to start off with THIS book, I should hold off on forming any concrete opinions just yet. I am convinced enough to try another Marukami book someday. probably not anytime soon, but I will give it another go.
1. What if I’ve forgotten the most important thing? What if somewhere inside me there is a dark limbo where all the truly important memories are heaped and slowly turning into mud? (pg. 10)
2. Life doesn’t require ideals. It requires standards of action. (pg. 71)
3. A gentleman is someone who does not what he wants to do but what he should do. (pg. 72)
View all my reviews