There’s a lot of books which make me sad, and often books which make me sad make me happy. I know that seems like it makes no sense, but what I mean is that I enjoy a bit of melancholy in stories from time to time – as long as a book moves me emotionally in some way, whether it be happy or sad or angry or whatever, I am content with it. It’s the books I finish reading and think “meh” that are the ones I find most dissatisfying.
Anyway, the one which I am going to use for this topic is Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I reviewed it in a fair amount of detail back in January here, if you want to read more. It is one of those startlingly beautiful novels, with eloquent and mesmerising writing painting a picture of 1960s Tokyo through the eyes of Toru Watanabe, a student at the time who is torn between two loves, each tragic in their own way. There is a lot of sadness in many of the characters, some of which becomes quite confronting as a reader, and towards the end it does seem to get too much for the protagonist as well.
But there’s something about the sadness which draws you in – the most memorable chapter by far was one in the middle of the book which carries on for nearly a hundred pages (definitely the longest chapter I’ve ever read) and is set inside a mountain sanatorium where Naoko, one of Toru’s loves, is trying to keep her fragile life together. It is hard to read in places as Naoko reveals how she came to be in such a state and in such a place, but the whole scene is incredibly moving and powerful and is testament to Murakami’s writing prowess.
Norwegian Wood is a deeply melancholy, if not outright sad, book. But I think it’s a story that everybody should read – in Japan it is one of the most read novels of all time. Sometimes we need to read stories like this to appreciate the more upbeat tales we come across, much like we need sadness and happiness to find a balance in reality if we are to achieve some sort of contentment with life.
Have you read Norwegian Wood? What were your thoughts?
What’s a book which makes you sad?