I read Norwegian Wood 🌲+ Kafka on the Shore 🐈  Bestseller Haruki Murakami Top Books 2021 Book-ish #7

Hello everyone, welcome to today’s book-ish video. I have just finished reading Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Today the topic is ‘coming of age but make it tragic’. I’m going to share a few lines from the book and dive right in.

“You are a good person, though. I can tell that much from looking at you…there are people who can open their hearts and people who can’t. You’re one of the ones who can. Or, more precisely, you can if you want to.”

“What happens when people open their hearts?”

“They get better.” she said.

‘How many Sundays – how many hundreds of Sundays like this – lay ahead of me? “Quiet, peaceful and lonely,” I said aloud to myself. On Sundays, I didn’t wind my spring.

Norwegian Wood was not the Tokyo coming of age story I assumed it was. The blurb made it seem like there was going to be alot of drama, hinting a love triangle; I had my cup of tea ready to sip because it said Watanabe was going for his best-friends girlfriend. Then I started reading and it became clear that this was not drama, it was trauma. 

Quick trigger warning suicide is a main topic in this book.

We find out that his best friend is dead, he killed himself at 17 years old. The bond that has linked Watanabe and Naoko is a clingy co-dependent type. Their relationship was built on the fact that they were left behind. They experienced a death at 17 years old and the way they interact with the world has become warped due to it. ‘You’re the only one who understands me, and so I stick with you’ type of relationship. In some cases it can be fine as it is comforting to know that you are going through a heartbreak with someone. However, if it doesn’t lead to healing and both parties are stuck in the past more pain is sure to come as we see in this story. 

There is a lot going on in this book, from mental illnesses to addiction and more toxic behaviour. Murakami shows with Watanabe and Naoko how death can change people leaving scars; depression, jadedness and lack of commitments become coping methods. Then we also learn from Midori, the other female lead about the effects of long term illnesses on family carers/guardians; what it means to look after someone who is physical sick, how consuming that can become. Midori’s response is lying and impulsiveness; she is also someone who does not like to be alone.

These main characters struggle to fit into society because of the trauma they have experienced. The word ‘normal’ comes up for discussion a few times, who is normal or who is not; and your normal status depends on your lifestyle; people judge your behaviour and place you into one of these categories. For example people who aren’t seen as normal are bullied by the rest and the most popular guy is worshipped even though he is a jerk and that’s just how it is.

Without giving any more spoilers I want to talk about sanatoriums, as one fo the characters does end up in one. The facility they go to is not a typical hospital, it’s a unique treatment centre designed to self heal. This sanatorium gave me more of an escape to the countryside vibe, disconnected from the world, growing vegetables, learning new skills. It was a safe space for someone to try heal themselves. There are pros and cons to a place like this, the fact that everyone is so open and free is a great. However, being so disconnected from the world getting too comfortable brings about fear when it’s time to rejoin society because the real world isn’t as calm and peaceful. Also the focus is self healing, you have to get better on your own, win the battle in your mind; because the sanatorium is a simple guide. 

I believe it’s so important that when someone is going through a tough time they can designate a safe place, somewhere they can reset. I know for many people this might not be possible. But one idea I take away from this sanatorium is about getting some fresh air and disconnecting for awhile. ‘Solitude’ sometimes can help bring healing, the world is so busy that when you take the time to cook for yourself, learn a new skill or solo travel; you will be able to dive deeper into yourself and try to understand yourself more without running away. However, this only works if there is effort to make yourself better, because if you hide away without intention it becomes ‘Isolation’ and that leads to further struggles including self loathe and loneliness. Solitude also needs a time period, if you stay too long you might start to think it’s easier instead of bothering with the world, but it might actually lead to regression. 

Next is Kafka on the Shore.

“You’re afraid of imagination. And even more afraid of dreams. Afraid of the responsibility that begins in dreams. But you have to sleep, and dreams are a part of sleep. When you’re awake you can suppress imagination. But you can’t suppress dreams.”

“I yank off my headphones and listen. Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear.”

Kafka is a15 year old run away, his baggage is mostly due to the curse from his father and the abandonment issues he has from his mother leaving him. Regardless of the loneliness weighing him down he has determined to become the strongest 15 year old with the help of ‘the boy named crow’. On the bus ride out of Tokyo he meets Sakura who is about the same age as the sister who left, and wonders if she really is his sister. Then Kafka’s love of books and the fact that he needs a hiding places takes him to a small town library where he meets Oshima and Miss Saeki; and yes Miss Saeki could be his mother. 

Before I go any further I have to admit that there were severals points when I was reading this book and I had no clue what was going on, the strangeness of it was too much and I thought it best to simply not think too much about it. So this book contains mysteries that I do not try to unravel and pick apart. This book was fascinating and strange, the journeys they are on switch between conscious and unconscious. There is another world being apart of this dream state can lead to consequences, because you lose something when you return. (If we had to take responsibility for everything we imagine I wonder what kind of chaos the world would be in.)

The most strangest character is Mr Nakata, I learned very quickly to just accept things. An incident happened to Mr Nakata that made him dumb and able to speak to cats, which is the reason he could not live a normal life. Also Mr Nakata has some strange powers the he doesn’t even understand how it works. Even with all the anomalies that is Mr Nakata he is my favourite character from this book.

Identity and home a place to belong is something these character struggle with. Kafka is unsure about himself and some of his behaviours scare him. After leaving Tokyo he has no where to go and no destination in mind; yet the curse and his obsession with knowing his mother and sister hold him in down in a cage. Miss Saeki disappeared for 20 years then returned to her hometown suddenly; she still comes across as put together but she is a void inside not present only feeling nostalgia for that summer at the beach. Mr Nakata has half a shadow, all his life since the incident he did what he was told just going with the flow, never feeling boredom and also never having any genuine desires. Empty shell is the word that can describe them. These characters are either lost or stuck, neither being an ideal state.

Kafka on the Shore made me reflect about my personal journey, the things I’m running away from or the past that I’m stuck in unable to let go of. You miss the opportunity of embracing life, when you are hiding or unavailable. Life is a journey you must go on, searching and figuring out yourself, identity and wants is apart of the process. Moving forward is the way to get better. And only when you stop making an effort is when you become an empty shell.

And with that we have come to the end of this book-ish video. 

Murakami has a versatile style, Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore are both outstanding in their unique ways. I had two different but impactful experience learning about the significance of relationship; family, friends and lovers are huge factors in determining how one interacts with the rest of the world. I highly recommend adding Murakami to your bookshelf, I know I have about 3 more books I’m looking to read by the author. 

I have linked my books down below; let me know in the comments if you have read it or have anything else to add about some of the points I mentioned. Thank you so much for watching this video. If you enjoyed this video remember to like, comment, subscribe and ring the notification bell so you know when I post. Byeeeee

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