Toro Watanabe's best friend Kizuki kills himself when they are both at school. When Toro gets to University he meets Naoko, Kizuki's girlfriend. As Toro grows up, studying and shagging in the free love days of 1968 and 1969, his relationship with Naoko gets ever more complicated. He visits her and her friend Reiki in a lunatic sanatorium in the mountains; Reiki plays Naoko's favourite Beatles song, Norwegian Wood. Back at University, Toro meets the bossy Midori who wants him to be her boyfriend but he cannot commit to her while Naoko needs him.
Toro, a strange introvert but someone who fascinates others, gets fucked up. The last sentence says: "Again and again I called out for Midori from the dead centre of this place that was no place."
Another quote: "An unfair society is a society that makes it possible for you to exploit your abilities to the limit."
There is a lot of death in this book. (There is also a lot of explicit sex.) We know Naoko will die almost from the very start. Kizuki and Naoko's sister have both killed themselves. Midori's mum is already dead, her dad is dying.
I once had a girl
Or should I say
She once had me.
I think Toro was very much had by Naoko.
Murakami's prose is unsettling in its clarity. A compelling read.
April 2011; 386 pages
- Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57