1Q84 (Books 1 & 2) by Haruki Murakami

A quick rundown… The story of two seemly unconnected people in Tokyo in 1984 and the mysterious things that are taking place.

Strengths: Absolutely fantastic writing that captures the heart and imagination; the story will remain with you long after you’ve finished.

Weaknesses: The ARC copy I had occasionally repeated extraneous details.

Why I read it: chosen by Readings Books to review it as part of their Uncorrected Proof Book Club. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Pages: 593 (ARC copy)

Published: 2011

Publisher: Harvill Secker (Random House)

Setting: Japan

Rating: 10 out of 10

If you liked this, try: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (if you like things linear), The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (if you like the more fantastic side).

I finished reading 1Q84 (surely the blockbuster novel of 2011) almost a week ago, but I wanted to collect my thoughts before I put fingers to keyboard. This is a novel (sounds trite, perhaps epic would be a better word) that remains with you for a long, long time after reading it. I’ve kept thinking about the story and how each event fits in the overall structure of the book, how clever and intricate the world created is and how I can picture in my head a world that doesn’t exist…or does it?

The ARC copy I read comprised of Books 1 and 2 (Book 3 will be published in the UK on 25th October 2011, I’m uncertain of an Australian release date). The sheer weight of the first two books (nearly 600 pages) will come as a delight to Murakami fans. For readers new to Murakami, it may take a little while to warm up to the picture that is being painted lovingly before you but persevere, the puzzle pieces soon fall into place. The book opens with Aomame (whose name means ‘green pea’, we never know her by any other name) in a taxi, stuck in a traffic jam in Tokyo in 1984. She is going to be late for her appointment when the taxi driver informs her of an emergency exit that will take her off the expressway back to ground level. He says a few odd things, but Aomame is not concerned about that. She takes his advice, goes down the stairs and off to her appointment – killing a man.

Meanwhile, Tengo is a young writer who is struggling to make a name for himself while teaching mathematics at a cram school. At a meeting with his somewhat mentor, he is asked to rewrite a novel written by a seventeen year old girl that has been submitted for a new writers’ prize. The novel, Air Chrysalis, is nothing like he’s ever read before. Neither is its author, Fuka-Eri, a strange girl who never uses a question mark in her speech.

Can you see the Murakami originality coming through? The cover pictured gives quite an insight into the main symbols of this book.

I don’t want to spoil the story for others – it’s highly original and will keep you reading all through the night but be prepared for almost anything to happen: religious cults, strange sightings of the moon, an older woman out for revenge, missing persons, murder, love, sex and all sorts of people – from big to small.

Murakami must be lauded for his ability to think of such an intricate plot – almost every detail is leading you further into the story and almost nothing is there by chance. It all combines together later in the second book with exquisite tension before the explosion of the bittersweet ending. Be aware that there is a fair bit of sex in this book but I felt it was needed to show where the characters were coming from and where they were heading.

On finishing this book, I hardly dared to look up at the moon in case I was in 1Q84! Everything else I’ve read since has paled in comparison to 1Q84.
I simply can’t recommend this book more highly – it’s a beautiful masterpiece.

37 thoughts on “1Q84 (Books 1 & 2) by Haruki Murakami

Add yours

  1. Oh lucky you! I cannot wait to read this book! I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much. It sounds fantastic. Great review and I’m thinking about ordering a copy now based on your review…I really cannot wait to read this book now!

  2. Love that you were able to read this FREE! and, EARLY! Or, at least, earlier than I! I have it ordered, and I’ll have my nose buried in it from October 25 when it arrives until I’m done. Can see that I’ll probably need to take a day or two off of work… 😉

    1. I was very, very lucky – owe Readings big time (should be easily resolved though, as I buy lots of books there when I’m in Melbourne). I would definitely take time off work to read it – I rushed home at the end of each day to read it!

  3. I just saw this book as a recommended read in my newspaper’s book section but yours is the first review I’ve seen. I’ve never read Murakami but this sounds like a style I’d like. I don’t mind if it’s not linear, in fact I prefer a bit of a puzzle. Now my only problem is to find time to read it!

    1. There were some others in my group who read it prior to me, but not sure how they’re going with their reviews. Murakami is a good one for puzzlish thinking (if ‘puzzlish’ is a word) – highly recommend it. You can keep thinking about it for days! (or even weeks)

  4. Thank you for this reiview! I almost never buy books these days (no space) but I’m going to make an exception for 1Q84. I’m very fond of all the Murakami I’ve read, but I think my favourites are “Kafka on the Shore” and “After Dark”.

  5. I’m a big fan of Murakami and this is perhaps one of his very best novels, right there with works like The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Like all those works, browsing the novel felt like gradually sinking into a well of dreams, and being enveloped in a mood of curiosity and off hand beauty/absurdity.

    In such a long and complex book, there is lots more to discuss. For instance, Murakami follows the concept that time does not flow in a straight line. In 1Q84, time twists around, reality shifts, and the past can sneak up unannounced behind you. These are merely a very few of the exciting themes I found.

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