Norwegian Wood (2006)
written by Haruki Murakami, narrated by James Yaegashi
Recorded Books, LLC | ISBN: 1419308017 | 11 CDs | MP3 | 64 kbps | Length: 13h 24' | Language: English | 368 Mb
In Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, main character Toru Watanabe considers himself totally ordinary — and he actually is. This could spell immediate doom for a first-person narrative, but Murakami delicately weaves a tragic but intensely interesting tale of events that lead all the way up to (and then seemingly stop at) the novel's climax. Toru's youthful naivet persists through much of the book, even in the wake of his best friend's suicide. Lonely and stagnant in a Tokyo college dorm, Toru eventually faces adulthood in the difficult choice he must make between the two women he loves. One is the beautiful but emotionally scarred girlfriend of his dead pal; the other an extraordinarily quirky and sexually liberated freshman classmate. Murakami adds few other characters but pumps them so full of life that they often steal the show. While the story is famously criticized by fans of Murakami's other work as being "just a love story", the subtext and meaning behind the sometimes strange events Toru finds himself in give this novel the weight it needs to succeed on many other levels.
What a relief when a narrator absolutely nails the voices of every character in the book. That's the case with James Yaegashi's interpretation of Norwegian Wood. His styling for each voice remains consistent, so much so that in some sections you forget that one person is handling both sides of a conversation. Yaegashi's versions of the two female love interests are wholly unique, employing separate qualities to each that underscore the differences in their personalities. The narration breathes full-blooded life into each character, at points becoming so essential that without Yaegashi's touch, a listener might start to tune out. His Japanese-inflected pronunciations of the foods and geography also add to the richness of the settings, something Murakami goes purposeful lengths to describe. And through it all, Yaegashi remains true to the voice of Toru Watanabe, adding an element of sympathy to the confused and tragic experience of Toru's difficult coming of age.
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