Book Review: 1Q84

Title/Author:  1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
(Books 1, 2, &3)

Genre:  Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Magical Realism, Romance

Published:  October 25th, 2011 (Books 1&2 Originally published in 2009 in Japan, Book 3 in 2010)

Hardcover, 925 pages

How I Got This Book:  Put it on hold and waited for about 3 weeks for it to come available for me at my library

Why I Picked It Up?:  I have heard good reviews about it–it was a Goodreads Favorite of 2011 and a NYTimes Best Seller for weeks. And it is a March bookclub choice for Coffee & Books on goodreads, so I thought I’d try out this hefty book and see what’s up.

Book Jacket Blurb:  “The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.”

My Review of this Work:

To be very frank with you all, I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT I JUST READ!
But I think I’m okay with that.  =)
And it is really hard to write a review on this novel while a) keeping spoilers out and b) writing sentences that make sense.

Now that the confession is out in the open and you know where I’m coming from, I can continue on with this review.

As you could probably guess, these 925 pages hold a lot of mystery, intrigue, and magic.  And these three elements combine to create this beautiful story full of depth, imagination, and fate.  There is a lot of interweaving of stories and ideas and philosophies and fantasy that makes these 925 pages (with minuscule sized print) seemingly fly by.  The only reason you know you are reading a really long book is that you are still reading it days and days after you started it, not because it is dragging, but because it is just that long.

The novel centers around two characters:  Aoname, a woman who fights for women’s rights in a slightly unconventional way, and Tengo, a math genius and aspiring novelist who is given a unique opportunity.  Each chapter alternates between these two characters, a technique which served as both a good thing and a bad thing.  A good thing because you really get to know each of the characters personally and intimately.  A bad things because a lot of times I found myself wanting to continue one story, and then I had to keep switching! (Okay, it’s not really a bad bad thing).  But in doing this, Murakami is able to build the suspense and the intrigue of the storyline while still keeping the timelines as close together as possible, as both Aoname’s story and Tengo’s story happen simultaneously.  These two seemingly separate characters are somehow connected, and the more you read their stories the more you learn just how connected they really are.

The centerpiece to this novel is the story Air Chrysalis, which is a fantasy story written by a 17 year old dyslexic girl with the pen name “Fuka-Eri.”  This is the story that Tengo ends up ghost-writing for his editor, Komatsu, with the hopes that it wins one of the yearly literary prizes.  But the more that Tengo learns about Fuka-Eri and her story, the more strange (and dangerous) life becomes for everyone in the whole world, it seems.  This story affects each and every character introduced in this story.  And don’t worry, you do, in fact, find out exactly what story Air Chrysalis tells…eventually.

The style and character development in this novel is very similar to Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  We have two main characters who take a very long time to meet.  We have a lot of extraneous details that are included about their everyday lives that help to counter the serious and weighty subject matter involved in the plotline.  There is a lot of sex and coffee/tea drinking (and the sex is described with extreme physiological detail, but it is not erotica by any means).  Sometimes it does feel like details about a character or the plotline are repeated, and repeated often.  But I really didn’t feel like the repetition dragged the story down.  Surprisingly, I think it helps build the suspense and the mystery for both the characters in the story and the readers of the story.

I know I haven’t said much about it, but I really feel that I cannot say anymore and still keep the integrity of the novel spoiler-free.  I will leave you with this:  if you are a fan of the bizarre (and slightly creepy), and you aren’t afraid to invest in something that might not answer all of your questions, then this book is for you.  In my opinion (after I have literally been thinking about this for three days straight), this is a novel worth investing in.

I invested, and I have to say I do not regret it.  Despite it’s length, despite it’s confusing nature, Murakami has written a story that will stay with the reader forever (now, why it stays with the reader can vary heh).  He has completely succeeded in creating this beautifully flowing work of literature that, if nothing else, leaves you thinking and guessing and wondering and dreaming.  And isn’t that what reading is about?

Memorable Moments:

The Driver nodded and took the money.  “Would you like a receipt?”
“No need.  And keep the change.”
“Thanks very much,” he said.  “Be careful, it looks windy out there.  Don’t slip.”
“I’ll be careful,” Aomame said.
“And also,” the driver said, facing the mirror, “please remember:  things are not what they seem.”
Things are not what they seem, Aomame repeated mentally.  “What do you mean by that?” she asked with knitted brows.
The driver chose his words carefully:  “It’s just that you’re about to do something out of the ordinary.  Am I right?  People do not ordinarily climb down the emergency stairs of the Metropolitan Expressway in the middle of the day–especially women.”
“I suppose you’re right.”
“Right.  And after you do something like that, the everyday look of things might seem to change a little.  Things may look different to you than they did before.  I’ve had that experience myself.  But don’t let appearances fool you.  There’s always only one reality.”
—Excerpt from Book 1, Chapter 1, page 9

My Bookshelf Rating:

A Fourth Shelf Book!

I know my review hardly answered anything, but this is just one of those books you have to experience for yourself.  So, here is a brief list of what you are in for by investing in this chunky novel:

1.  Great characters and character development
2.  An intriguing and mysterious story
3.  Fantastical elements that become reality
4.  The good kind of confusion (I think)
5.  A lot of questions.

Love and Really Large Books,
Jennifer

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