Friday, April 5, 2013

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Wow! I had no idea 1Q84 would be such a cool book. Its size and weird title were both intriguing and off-putting at first, but after finding a copy at a used book store I knew I had to bring it home and give it a try. I started reading the first few pages and found the chapters  flying by on their own as I became more and more obsessed with Tengo and Aomame's story. It's a Matrix-y, Alice-in-Wonderland-y love story with alternate realities, portals, mysterious Little People and a double moon. Murakami's writing is so engrossing and so real, that the fantasy aspect of the story was surprisingly easy to cope with for my non-fantasy tastes. This author's books could be my gateway into a whole new genre!

*spoilers* The story overall is really, really good. I loved the flow and the pacing and those weird little other-worldly surprises. The characters, too, were intriguing. How cool is Aomame? She kicks ass and takes names, looking great in everything from designer suits to yoga pants. And then there's the dowager in her hidden compound with the body guard and gold fish. So Zen! And what does she do with all her wealth? She provides a furnished, secluded shelter on her property for abused women. A worthy and noble undertaking, I'd say. Tengo is a quirky, writer, teacher, loner type of guy with some serious father issues. I love how he manages to resolve this, forgiving his father and staying with him in the old-age home, reading aloud and talking to him even though the old man is in a coma. Fuka-Eri, the seventeen-year old girl with the imaginative story is also a pretty quirky character. She doesn't say much, but she has a presence that's shrouded in imagination and mystery. And then there's Komatsu for a little bit of extroverted relief. Where I imagine most of these characters to be soft-spoken, I imagine Komatsu to be a loud-talker, an irritation for us introverts, but a necessary element to keep us balanced. And then, ugh, Ushikawa. I don't know if it was Murakami's endless descriptions of this character's ugliness or what, but I found book three, when Ushikawa plays a bigger role investigating and spying on our two protagonists, to be rather tedious. I really didn't need to know all about Ushikawa's history and personality for pages and pages at a time. He got on my nerves something fierce and I couldn't have been more relieved when he finally met his demise. Once it became clear that Tengo and Aomame were going to reconnect, I just wanted to get on with the conclusion already.

1Q84 is good in a 4-out-of-5 stars sort of way. I liked it a lot but it could have done with some trimming.

The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.
A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver's enigmatic suggestions 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 become unravelled. 
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. (back cover)


JoAnn said...

I really want to read Murakami, but am not sure if this is the right place to start.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I have the eBook but haven't read it yet - glad u liked it. I've enjoyed audio books by this author as well.

Trish said...

JoAnn - I would start with Norwegian Wood which is his most 'normal' book. Although 1Q84 is a lot more normal than I thought it would be. The fantasy element is more mystery than fantasy.

Diane - I haven't tried him on audio yet but sounds like I probably should.

Kailana said...

I started this last year and never finished it... I am so bad for that...

Trish said...

Maybe you'll find time to pick it up again? I'm always doing things like that.

Micaella Lopez said...

I've read and enjoyed everything Murakami has published and this was my favorite so far. I can understand why some criticize it as being boring or repetitious, but to me all of that repetition was like watching rain drops make trails down a window pane - beautiful and zen-like. I think anyone who isn't cynical by nature will find this book pleasurable.

This is a book I will cherish for the rest of my life, and will read many more times.
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