Nov 7, 2011

Book Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami


Title 1Q84: A Novel by Haruki Murakami
October 25, 2011; personal Kindle edition
Genre: literary fiction
Rating: 5/5

My take on the novel in a nutshell: A crime thriller plus a love story in an alternate reality full of magic and fantasy. 1Q84 starts out being a thriller, one of my favorite genres, and I was quite surprised by this. It then also became a love story between two people, Tengo and Aomame.

Fantastical and magical things and people appear  in the novel - the Smurf-like Little People, for one, and the Air Chrysalis - devices that almost seem like children's fantasies. But this is no book for children. There is explicit sex and calculated murder, but also sympathetic looks into the hearts and minds of some of the main characters. Tengo in particular, is a very likable mathematician turned writer, whose relationship with his dying father adds a touch of pathos to the novel. His search for his grammar school classmate, Aomame, and her search for him, is the love story that fuels the novel.

In the plot, Tengo and Aomame both enter an alternate reality, 1Q84, when Tengo rewrites a book, Air Chrysalis, written by the enigmatic teenager Fuka-Eri, and when Aomame climbs down a long metal staircase from one level of the expressway to the next and from one reality to another. In this alternate world that declares itself by the two moons hanging in the sky, the two try to find each other, though they met since the third grade about 20 years before.

Religion is an important link between Tengo and Aomame, and 1Q84 takes aim at religious cults - those controlling Big Brother-like organizations in which children are sexually and mentally abused and  all their members restrained psychologically. The book also seems to focus on women avenging the crimes of severely abusive men, making sure they are dispatched to "another world" in order to prevent them from continuing.

In such a long and complex book, there is bound to be a lot more to discuss. For instance, Murakami follows the idea 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 just a very few of the interesting themes I found.

Besides the thriller and love stories, I liked how well the main characters were developed in the book, the careful and realistic descriptions of physical features, personality, and motives. Murakami's comments on writing are also interesting, as are the ways he weaves a world of magic and fantasy into the novel.

I'd love to hear from others who have read 1Q84.. What do you think about the book?

For other reviews on this book, visit Fantasy Book Critic, Dolce Bellezza, Magnificent Octopus, Man of La Mancha, and Sam Still Reading.

© Harvee Lau 2011
Submitted for the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge and the Japanese Literature Challenge V

17 comments:

  1. I was thinking there is no way I would get what all goes on in this book, and felt better after reading the review in the New York Times yesterday in which the reviewer confessed not to knowing what was going on all the time! So I think I'll take a pass, but I know I will appreciate thoughts of others on it!

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  2. I think this one sounds more and more interesting every time that I hear about it. It is long, so I am concerned about how I will make the time for it, but all these themes and ideas make me excited! Great review today!

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  3. I've been so curious about this book because of all of the buzz that it's gotten. I plan to give it a try, but will probably stop by a certain page number if it just doesn't grab me.

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  4. I have a feeling that much of this book would go straight over my head. I'm with Jill on this one...enjoy reading what others thought of it, but knowing that I'll never read it.

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  5. I can't wait to read this book! So glad to hear that it was a top read for you. I might consider reading it in December.

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  6. WOW...high praise for this book. I downloaded it but haven't read it. I have so many books in progress and not enough reading time:( Great review, so far the reviews seem mixed it seems , so it was great to see you praise for it.

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  7. I am slowly making my way through it. I could have easily knocked it off in just a couple of days but I want to really savor this one. I am at page 300 right now.

    I saw your comment about reading it on the Kindle. I skipped the Kindle version because there is supposed to be a puzzle with the page numbering of the book. I would miss it on my 2 gen Kindle (no page #s).

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  8. I haven't read this and it doesn't seem like a book I could get into. I'm glad you liked it, though, and you gave a great review of it.

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  9. I haven't read Murakami and feel a little intimidated by this one - think I'll be starting with After Dark. It's waiting on my shelf.

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  10. Harvee, I am intrigued by this book! Terrific review--you reveal just enough to further whet my appetite!

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  11. I'll be back to comment, and read your review more carefully, when I finish it myself. 300 more pages to go, but 2 days of parent/teacher conferences stand between me and the end. Soon!

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  12. What a wonderful review! I've just completed the novel, and written my review, which isn't nearly as concise and clear as yours. In fact, I fear I've left out several significant parts. How can one describe Murakami's work succinctly? Anyway, love your review, linked to it on my post, and feel that you really captured the novel which was complex to say the least!

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  13. Wonderful review, it was a good book despite of all the buzz. Thanks for linking to my blog :)

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  14. I think you have said much of the positive things one might say about 1Q84-overall I was very much looking forward to this book and I was very disappointed-I found the religious cult pretty uninteresting, the main romantic couple not at all convincing-I did like both of them as characters-I found the concept of the little people did not carry the meaning it is supposed to-I kept waiting for them to burst into song-over all I am glad I read it and I urge others to try it for themselves but dont pay full price for it-it will be 25 percent off soon!

    nice job in your review and sorry to be negative on 1Q84

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  15. The characters for me were the biggest winner. Great review.

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  16. I wasn't planning on reading 1Q84 mostly because it is so long, which is really a very lame excuse. I admit it. I didn't want to struggle with the length or understanding it all, but now that I read your review I'm thinking I should give it a try.

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  17. Well, this is different from what I thought this author wrote. Thanks.

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