“And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, Norwegian wood….”

You can’t help but keep listening to this Beatles song on repeat mode while reading this book and also after finishing it. The melody of this song is the very essence of this novel. Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood is a beguiling story with labyrinthine characters, prepossessing backdrop and an indistinct echoing symphony playing in the background.

Toru Watanabe hears her favourite song ‘Norwegian woods’ and reminisces his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his dead friend Kizuki. When Kizuki remained 17 forever Toru lived on, soon to be 20. Naoko who lost the love of her life lost interest in life altogether. Although, her love for Toru is indescribable, his love for Naoko is inextinguishable. But it’s complicated and they both know it. Enters Midori with her charming weirdness to disrupt Toru’s repose and bring him back to a normal life. Showing him how to embrace life for what it is, good or bad. Toru who is still in love with Naoko has to make a choice between Naoko who is letting lose of her own thread of life and gradually diving deep into the darkness or Midori who is still alive and wants to live the most of it.

This novel is written so beautifully that you hear the characters speak to you, sing to you every now and then, see yourself somewhere sitting behind the scenes watching everything happening before your eyes. Toru is a listener every girl asks for. The chasms of his heart absorbs the darkness reflected from all the hearts that surrounded him. Naoko, Reiko, Hatsumi, Midori every single female character in this novel is one of it’s kind. They leave their own mark, they make their valid point, they are beautifully twisted. And above all it’s the story of twisted minds. People for whom surviving in the stream of life is arduous, who live in seclusion, and die like a mystery. Toru understands, “Death exists, not as opposite but as a part of life”. In the midst of these entangled souls Toru eventually learns to live.

This story is emotionally engaging. This story is also about growing up, learning from your own experiences and choosing happiness above everything else. It’s a bold rendition of how in Tokyo in 1960s in the backdrop of student uprising, young generation engaged in free meaningless love making and booze. And yet, love can be so tender a feeling that it can send ticklish feelings to your heart.

Surbhi Islam

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