Book Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1Q84 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

1Q84 interweaves the tales of two people, a man and a woman, who stumble down the rabbit-hole into the same alternate universe. The male lead, Tengo, is a writer with an artful gift for language, but no success developing his own idea –the perfect ghost writer. The female lead, Aomame, is a personal trainer who, in her spare time,… let’s just say makes problems (abusive male problems) go away. The two had met briefly in their youth, but were separated. While they each have “the one that got away” thoughts for each other, both have given up on the notion that they’d ever be reunited. Even in the same alternate reality, the question of whether they will reunite remains.

Most 900+ page novels I’ve read would benefit tremendously from editing. However, Murakami makes good use of the space. Besides the two main leads, there are a number of other essential characters. For example,there is not a novel without Fuka-Eri, the teenage girl who seems barely literate but yet who managed mysteriously to write a story that is perfect once Tengo has recrafted it. There is also an engaging sub-story in “The Town of Cats.”

The name comes from it being Murakami’s take on Orwell’s “1984.” It takes place in 1984, but one of the MC’s take to calling the period in the alternative universe, 1Q84 (which plays on the Japanese pronunciation of 9 (kyu)). Murakami’s alternative universe is much subtler than Orwell’s (or Huxley’s or Atwood’s.)However, unlike those other alternate universes, there is a supernatural element that is mostly at the fringes in this one. Perhaps owing to Murakami’s look into the Aum Shinrikyo cult, the nefarious entity in this book is a massive powerful cult – as opposed to Orwell’s authoritarian leviathan.

I highly recommend this book. While it’s long, Murakami keeps one guessing by masterfully removing the onion layers gradually — giving one little victories and new mysteries along the way like nefarious enemies and immaculate conceptions. For the really deep literary types, the book is packed with symbolism that I’m sure I only vaguely got. For writers, we get advice from Murakami in the form of dialogue between Tengo and his editor Komatsu.

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