Imagine this. You’re at a bookstore and you see a book by an author you know is really good, with the same name as a song you know is really good, and with a back cover summary that looks really good.
Is there any choice you have but to buy it and read it? No you don’t. And don’t you dare tell me you do because I fell in that trap and I deeply regret.
Case in point: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like this guy a lot. Sure, his books are kinda weird and everything is twisted in its own way. Its own good way. But Norwegian Wood is just at another level. At a level I’d rather not reach.
Allow me to break this down:
- Story line : Meh. An average college romance. A lot of deaths. Deaths used to make the story progress and injects semi-regular doses of drama into the story. The story keeps swaying between boring and depressing regularly. And not depressing in the way a tragic novel hits you. Not at all. More like ‘oh my god, stop with this already’.
- Characters : The protagonist, Toru Watanabe is so average that he calls himself average. The weird thing is that a lot of people in the book say he’s special or charming in his own way. But honestly, apart from a few smart and symbolic (classic Murakami) lines the guy can throw in, I couldn’t see anything special about him at all. The three main women are just as unimpressive. Naoko just seemed irritating to me. Sure she suffered quite a bit in the story and I do feel bad for her. But just the way she talked and did things. SO BLOODY IRRITATING. Then there was Midori. Sort of eccentric, sort of funny. Went through quite a bit herself but didn’t put people through misery just because of that. She made people miserable solely on the basis of what they did to her. Not because of what had happened to her otherwise. Which is why I preferred Midori over Naoko any day. But even then I’m not a super-fan of Midori’s. Reiko was probably the least detestable of all the women in the story. Probably because all she did in half her time in the book was to sing and play the guitar. Hatsumi and his girlfriend don’t even deserve a separate mention.
- Some good stuff : The most memorable line from the book, “Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it”. Makes you realize that there was a reason why you began reading a Murakami book in the first place. I also liked Midori’s head strong, can’t give too many fucks attitude towards life. She’s kind of annoying but she seems to have accepted that and not care. Almost all the songs referenced in the book are good songs. Major happy earworming potential. Irrelevant, but I do like the cover design too.
I read somewhere that Murakami himself was puzzled that this book made it so big. Dude, I know. In case anyone ever manages to figure out why its as popular as it is, please let me know.
And for anyone who hasn’t read it, there are better Murakami books out there that you can read so why bother with this crap?