First Sentence: I was 37 then, strapped in my seat as the huge 747 plunged through dense cloud cover on approach to Hamburg Airport.
Toru Wantabe hears ‘Norwegian Wood’ (the song) as he is strapped in his seat in Hamburg, and he begins to remember his first love, Naoko. He recalls his student days when his best friend (and Naoko’s boyfriend), Kizuki, takes his own life on his 17th birthday. As Naoko finds this loss increasingly hard to deal with, Toru starts college and meets Midori, a beautiful girl who is to have a profound effect on his life. As all this takes place, Naoko’s mental health steadily deteriorates and Wantabe is forced to choose between the past, with Naoko (who has ended up in a secluded Asylum in the mountains) and a possible future with Midori. For me this is a novel I really enjoyed, but I find it pales in comparison to Murakami’s more surreal work (Like The Wind-up Bird Chronicle or Kafka on the Shore). All in all though it’s a great read and it has plenty of classic Murakami descriptions: “I love the way you talk. Like spreading plaster, nice and smooth.” (Midori talking to Wantabe); “I’m the scratchy stuff on the side of the matchbox.” (Reiko [Naoko's room-mate in the asylum] talking about herself). It’s all good when it comes to Murakami though, and this is certainly a great book, just not his best.
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