When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire - to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past.
Toru Watanabe is an 18 year old freshman coasting through his college years, days spent reading literature, listening to jazz and classical music and wondering about the peculiarities of his dorm room-mate 'Storm Trooper'. Until one day he runs into a friend from his hometown, a fragile and aloof girl named Naoko. This chance meeting forces Toru into a world love, happiness, loss, and depression that will change his life forever.
Norwegian Wood, is Murakami's best novel to date. Which is odd to a degree, as it lacks the supernatural themes that make up the threads of many of his other great works like Kafka on the shore or The Wind up Bird Chronicle that we are familiar with. It still features themes such as loneliness, reading and jazz music, and not to forget Murakami's love for pasta; Norwegian Wood differs however in that while still important in his other works, relationships and how we deal with their complexities really take the forefront in this novel.
I believe this book really has the ability to impact readers on a personal level, as while extreme, many of the situations in this book can be painfully relatable to many, from the trials of unrequited love to losing people that mean a lot to you. While it is a romance book to a degree, it is not corny or soppy in any way and I think can be enjoyed by anyone. If you are new to Murakami this is a great place to start before getting into his more surreal works, and if you are a fan, why haven't you read this yet? - Ashley (QBD)