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Writer's Reviews - Norwegian Wood: Haruki Murakami

Updated: 4 hours ago

The critical-literary analyses offered by WriTribe are a thousand words long. Each has been compiled with the intention of providing writers not only with a general introduction to the works presented, but also to reveal the added value inherent in each of them.

1,000 words go far beyond mere criticism or superficial praise; they are intended to point you to one or more secret elements, showing you what narrative techniques are masterfully employed by the author of the work in question.

Written with the unique perspective of an author for authors, reviews aim to point out to you what added value you can glean from twenty literary classics. With this in mind, choosing the reading best suited to your need will prove much easier.


Book cover of Norwegian Wood (1987) by Haruki Murakami


Norwegian Wood (1987)

Haruki Murakami

The work at a glance

Also published under the title Tokyo Blues the novel is based on a short story from five years earlier, Hotaru (The Firefly). The story takes place in 1960s Japan and is told in the first person by the main character, Toru Watanabe.

The story begins with a long flashback of Toru, who on a plane landing in Hamburg, listening to the Beatles' Norwegian Wood, begins to remember his past in Tokyo when he attended university as a young man. His first memory goes to meeting Naoko, girlfriend of his close friend Kizuki, a girl with whom he was in love and who would deeply mark the protagonist's fortunes during his adolescence.

Kizuki's sudden and tragic death, however, casts a heavy shadow over the boys, and Toru and Naoko grow even closer. However, Naoko, unable to overcome the death of her beloved Kizuki, begins to suffer from deep depression and, in an attempt to find a solution to her problems, decides to withdraw altogether and go to an isolated place, a psychiatric clinic in the middle of the countryside.

From these memories Toru begins to retrace those difficult and troubled years for him: his experience at the university boarding school; his friendship with Nagasawa, a charismatic but at times controversial boy who shares with Toru a passion for American literature; and his meeting with Midori, a decidedly vivacious girl with whom he begins a complicated and passionate relationship, even as Toru continues to be haunted by his feelings for Naoko and his sense of responsibility for her.

Against the backdrop of an important historical period, the late 1960s, which saw universities as the protagonists of youth protests, Toru-who will nonetheless remain uninvolved in the political fervor-will, through these complex and harsh experiences, face a journey within himself that is painful but above all one of personal growth.


What you can learn from reading this work:

  1. Centrality of relationships and youth dynamics

  2. Emotional depth of the characters

  3. Creation of a precise atmosphere


The entire narrative arc that accompanies Norwegian Wood revolves around the intense and realistic telling of what are the interpersonal relationships between the protagonists, relationships that become central and functional not only for the development of the plot but because they delineate that world of youth, complex and often conflicting, but from which all the passions typical of that age emerge and which move starting precisely from the relationships between the boys, their strong friendships and loves. Murakami gives an authentic depiction of the adolescent world by managing to capture its essence through the constant challenges that the characters face.

It is precisely from these that, like a kind of tow, the novel comes to deeply investigate the psychological aspect of the protagonists by highlighting their thoughts, desires, fears, feelings, especially love that leads to a range of moods in which these young people find themselves immersed almost as if in a whirlpool, because if one is young, the intensity and emotional drives become predominant. Not only that, it will also be the dramatic events that confront them with the great challenges of life (the tragic death of Toru's friend, the psychic illness that overtakes Naoko) that will go on to profoundly change the protagonists and make them grow up, leading them almost to disillusionment after the loss of the disillusionment that youth has given them.

Here then comes into play the pain, suffering and the attempt to overcome it that alternate in the events and existences of this group of young people. This narrative mechanism induces the reader to continuous reflections in a game of mirrors with the characters, and this is an example of how giving more intensity to the story one wants to tell, making it more engaging, leads the reader to empathize with the protagonists.

But, above all, in Norwegian Wood Murakami has succeeded in creating a unique atmosphere, imbued with a deep melancholy at times poignant, given also by the fact that the novel revolves around memories, thus a time past in the knowledge that, one way or another, this will never return, that we will never be the same again. It is no coincidence that the first-person narrative, thus intimate, takes shape from listening to a piece of music, the carrier precisely of memories and nostalgia. This means that, being able to harness the power of emotions not only in the characters' souls but also in the setting in which they move, leads the reader to an equally intense experience.

In Norwegian Wood all this is made possible through Murakami's ability to write in a very evocative and thus engaging way, in which the language and elegant prose, at times even raw and sincere, perfectly render this atmosphere of melancholy, which represents that “sweet sadness” that accompanies each individual in difficult times, but also of reflection and change that the loss of innocence and the beginning of adulthood bring starting with the protagonists themselves and reaching directly to the reader. Being able to activate these sensors really enriches each text with elements that only a narrative of the highest caliber brings.



Norwegian Wood has been a huge international success right from the start, becoming a bestseller read and appreciated all over the world, and not are by a young audience. It is considered one of Murakami's best novels, establishing him as one of the greatest and most interesting living authors. Norwegian Wood also represented a turning point in contemporary Japanese literature: indeed, the novel departs from the canons of traditional Japanese fiction and helped introduce new themes and writing styles into that country's literature.

But the success of Norwegian Wood transcended Japanese borders, helping to spread Japanese literature worldwide and established Murakami as one of the most important and beloved writers to date. Let us conclude with some curiosities that accompanied the writing and genesis of the novel: Murakami began writing it on the island of Mykonos in 1986 and then finished the last chapter, after a brief stay in Sicily, in an apartment in the Prenestine neighborhood of Rome then right in Italy.



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