The Pequod Review:
Set in the late 1960s, and told with the tenuousness and uncertainty of The Beatles’ song as a backdrop (“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me”), Norwegian Wood is on the surface a simple love story, but it builds to one of extraordinary depth and atmosphere. And it features some of Murakami’s most interesting and complex characters, especially the narrator Toru who at age 37 tells his coming-of-age story of teenage love and loss in an intimate and pieced-together manner:
There is no way around it: my memory is growing ever more distant from the spot where Naoko used to stand-ever more distant from the spot where my old self used to stand. And nothing but scenery, that view of the meadow in October, returns again and again to me like a symbolic scene in a movie. Each time is appears, it delivers a kick to some part of my mind. "Wake up," it says. "I'm still here. Wake up and think about it. Think about why I'm still here." The kicking never hurts me. There's no pain at all. Just a hollow sound that echoes with each kick. And even that is bound to fade one day. At the Hamburg airport, though, the kicks were longer and harder than usual. Which is why I am writing this book. To think. To understand. It just happens to be the way I'm made. I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.
The real-time structure of Toru’s narration, coupled with the way the story builds through fragments of his hazy memories, give this novel a warmth and confidentiality unique among Murakami’s work.