Not my usual read, I picked this almost at random from Audible, feeling like trying something outside my usual genres. This is a coming-of-age story set in Japan in the late 60s. It features a love triangle of sorts, a lot of humor and a fair amount of darkness, sex, mental illness, suicide, and your typical college student hijinks. The protagonist is likeable enough but tends to be a jerk at times, but it's the secondary characters around him who are the most interesting.
I was quite impressed by Murakami's style; his descriptions of everything from the characters to their breakfasts were detailed and nuanced, without ever being overdone. This is the kind of literary prose I can appreciate: stylish without drowning out the narrative. I liked it. Every one of his characters were fully portrayed human beings, all with quirks and depths and pains and virtues.
That said, why did I give this book only four stars? I suppose it's not entirely fair to judge it as being less than a five-star story just because it's not my usual type of story, but the fact is, the story itself was... about a guy coming of age in the 60s. Which is great for those who love these sorts of stories. For me, I could appreciate the prose and the storytelling without necessarily wanting to read another book just like this.ETA:
Now that I've read a few more of Murakami's books, I feel like adding that this book is both similar and different from his other novels. Norwegian Wood
has no supernatural elements or "magical realism," unlike most of Murakami's novels, which I suppose is why it's called more "accessible" for Western readers. Kind of a silly differentiation — while his other books, like Kafka on the Shore
or Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
than this, they aren't particularly hard to understand. But there are lots of common themes, like the dorky Everyman protagonist who just kind of wanders through the plot while women fall on his dick. Oh, and minute attention to detail and subtle characters, which is why I like him, even if reading a Murakami novel is kind of like staring at an old woodblock print and appreciating its beauty just before you realize that there's a badger waving its enormous testicles in the corner.