I've been meaning to read Murakami for a while now. I'm a big fan of elegant book design and there was a lot of press about some limited edition IQ84s, but also a lot of talk of it being a particularly difficult book.
While I'm not necessarily shy about trying out a tricky read, I thought I should start with something a bit more accessible. A colleague of mine suggested Norwegian Wood, so that's where I started.
My strongest memory of this book is of serenity and calm, despite several of the themes being the opposite of these moods.
Told through the eyes of Watanabe, looking back to his time as a pretty unshakeable university student, the novel explores his relationships with two women, a changing Japan and death. It's not nearly as simple as that, but these are the things that stood out for me.
There are several beautifully put phrases- kudos to both the author and his translator- and I found that I kept turning down the pages so I wouldn't forget them.
"The wind changes direction a little, and their cries become whispers"
"Nobody likes being alone. I just hate being disappointed."
"I spent three days...all but walking the bottom of the sea."
One thing that did surprise me was my feelings towards Watanabe's behaviour when it came to the women in his life. Let's just say he's not always faithful when waiting and I couldn't help but think of Love in the Time of Cholera. When I read that book, I felt that the character's love wasn't quite so pure as he made it out to be. Perhaps I've grown up a bit, or perhaps it's the very straight forward and un-romanticised way Watanabe's exploits and feelings are laid out in this book. There are some truly tender moments and perhaps this is why I remember it so calmly.
I took this with me to the Norwegian woods to read, but the title refers to the Beatles' song of the same name. I found it particularly interesting that there were so many references to Western music and because this is set at the same time when Murakami himself was a student, like to think he's drawing on what students of the day listened to. It also gave me relatable cultural landmarks that helped me remember the time setting of the book.
I've got to finish with this quote from the book about loving someone like a spring bear. I think it's a beautiful analogy.
"You're walking through a field all by yourself one day in spring, and this sweet little bear cub with velvet fur and shiny little eyes comes walking along. And he says to you ' Hi, there, little lady. Want to tumble with me?' So you and the bear cub spend the whole day in each other's arms, tumbling down this clover covered hill. Nice, huh?"
p.s. I'm being particularly bad about posting because I'm spending a huge amount of time writing job applications, have just got a computer that I am just getting to know and having problems with my internet. Bah! All rubbish and hopefully all soon over. I have lots of posts planned in my head- just need to get them out and published!