I finished Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood last night, and am now suffering slight depression, I think.
I'm normally a pretty fast reader, but I lingered over every word of this unusual, beautiful, gem of a novel. I'm struggling to articulate why I loved it so much, but I think it boils down to the fact it contains all the attributes I look for in a good read.
1. It captures a time, place and mood to perfection. Tokyo, 1969, comes alive with such life and colour that you yearn and keen for it.
2. Characters grow and learn through tragedy, but the novel itself is not tragic.
3. Music is woven through the story seamlessly, and you can almost hear the soundtrack to the book as you read on. John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ravel, Brahms. I was first reminded of The Virgin Suicides (excellent as well, but just not in the same league as this), then of the puny-by-comparison An Equal Music by Vikram Seth, which did have a companion soundtrack to boot. If Norwegian Wood went down that path, it would seriously kick some ass.
4. The story is underscored by a quiet symbolism - the balance of the mind, for example, reflected in the serenity of nature, or lack thereof. I was reminded about what so moved me when I was in Tokyo earlier this year.
5. I was lured into the story, I cared for the characters, I didn't want the novel ever to end. I read the last few pages so slowly, like how you'd want to prolong one of those great late night conversations with old friends. That's the kind of book Norwegian Wood was for me.
I don't know if it's everyone's thing, but this book is one of my top reads to date. Can't recommend it highly enough.