Published by Knopf on October 25, 2011
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Source: I purchased a copy of this book.
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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.
Wow. What an experience! Let me start by being upfront: I have loved reading Haruki Murakami for a long time. There are some books I’ve liked more than others, but I’ve never felt disappointed. With 1Q84, once again I had a very memorable reading experience that left me feeling that this was time well spent.
Good thing, too! This is a chunkster – over 1,000 pages. It’s divided into three books (for clarity, when I say book I’m referring to the entire work). If you haven’t read anything else by Murakami, I’m not sure 1Q84 is a good starting place unless you’re already a huge fan of surrealism and magical realism. (A good starting place for those feeling a bit daunted would be The Elephant Vanishes, a collection of short stories.)
It is not a requirement to have read George Orwell’s 1984 before reading 1Q84. References to Orwell are common enough (Big Brother, for example) and at one point, a very brief overview of Orwell’s book is given during a conversation between characters.
Throughout the book there are these little threads, even very early on, which are all joined together by the end. A number of references are made hundreds of pages apart from each other, happening to different characters, even; yet not one tiny detail is forgotten.
Pretty much every note I made as I was reading turned out to be useless for review; I really do not want to spoil this experience for anyone. I will say that I loved how much I didn’t see coming. I loved the surprises, the suspense, the intrigue, the mystery. But again, that is all done within Murakami’s surreal, magical world, so don’t expect an action-packed novel. At times it feels more like suspended animation. Time feels like it’s happening at different rates and in alternate streams. It’s a lot to take in.
Murakami is a master. He gets away with things I would never allow another author to do! For example, the love story aspect. It seems to have no reason behind it at all and it’s steeped in that overly sappy “if it’s meant to be” sentiment I usually loathe. But at the same time, it makes perfect sense, and I’m okay with it. And throughout the book, I’m accepting things that I know I have no good reason to accept. It’s infuriating how often he messes with my head, and how much I love it! Murakami brings me into his fictional world as if it’s reality and… well, now that’s a pretty interesting statement, now that I think about everything that happened in 1Q84…
There has been chatter about the possibility of a Book 4, but I like the ending as is. I can’t help but feel that Murakami has taken the best aspects of his early works and combined it with the best aspects of his most recent, ending up with 1Q84. I agree with those who have referred to 1Q84 as Murakami’s magnum opus.