Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
This is not my first Murakami, unlike many recommend it for. Thus I joined those who complained about its “commonness” – in the beginning. I was disappointed to find the theme of suicide and sadness like in other Japanese novels. Too typical. Plus I was reading this after a novel on World War 2 which was also drenched in death and loss. Too much sadness for the end of the year.
But as I was going through the book, I realized that although this story seem “common”, it’s powerful in its deep view into the human feelings toward self-healing, freedom, and a love deserved. Bursting with wit and his signature eeriness, Murakami made the uncanny natural, common, daily, to the extent of my asking:
Is Watanabe’s life considered common, back in the day? (being a lone wolf and having ignorant sexual behavior)
How does the society treat suicide nowadays? (considering the rooted cultural view towards suicide and the country’s position in the world’s top ten highest suicide rate for the past 20 years)
Why does the way Watanabe think and speak seem peculiar to the people around him? (language learning needed – it was not easy to understand in a translated version)
I wonder why this book ‘shook the Japanese society’ when it was released; because it resonates with real lives or because it’s misleading?
I feel I learned a lot about mental illness and depression from this book. And although it’s centered on despair and emotional damage, the story paved its way towards enlightenment and happiness. Some have to go through rocky roads, but at the end of the road, each of us will find the happiness we deserve.
It’s also enjoyable to know bits of Murakami’s life, as much of Watanabe’s life and personality was derived from his own. And I love Midori, her honesty and courage! I long to be that free-spoken.
Now I need a cheerful story.