Wow. What can I say? I loved it. All 925 pages of it. Haruki Murakami’s magnum opus is a crime thriller and a love story set in 1984 and a parallel world of 1Q84 (Q for question mark) with elements of magical realism. Told through Murakami’s characteristically surreal and dream-like prose, ‘1Q84’ is a spectacularly addictive read.
The thing about ‘1Q84’ that you can’t ignore is that it’s… well… very long. It’s certainly the longest novel I’ve ever read anyway. Before I started reading it, I found the sheer length of the book quite daunting given that it is unusual for me to take over a week to read a novel especially when I’m not working. But the way in which the stories of Aomame and Tengo gradually become more and more entwined through the mysterious religious cult of Sakigake in the parallel world of 1Q84 is highly absorbing. It was so brilliantly written that I still didn’t want it to end.
‘1Q84’ is definitely a book to wallow in. There is obviously a high level of descriptive detail in such a long novel but I would say very little of it is either unnecessary waffle or irrelevant to the story even in such a lengthy work. Although some people may find his dense style of writing frustrating, I like the fact that it’s the kind of story you can really get lost in and the length of it just prolongs the atmosphere.
The story is intricately written and very well plotted. The main characters, Aomame and Tengo, are typical Murakami creations plagued by loneliness and alienation. I have to admit that when the Little People were introduced to the story, I did wonder if Murakami had completely lost it, but fortunately he doesn’t go too over the top with the magical realism in the ‘Air Chrysalis’ aspect of the story. Murakami doesn’t really answer many of the questions that he poses to the reader and many of the loose ends are never fully explained. But this will hardly be surprising to Murakami’s existing fans and it just takes longer for the story to really sink in after it has ended.
If you are playing Haruki Murakami bingo then you are guaranteed to win with ‘1Q84’. All of Murakami’s trademark oddities are here: cats, ear fetishes, weird sex, a precocious teenage girl, urban ennui etc. Saying this, I think those who are new to Murakami’s work would be better off starting with either ‘Kafka On The Shore’ or ‘Dance Dance Dance’ to begin with. I also think anyone who wants to read this book should also read ‘Underground‘ which is Murakami’s non-fiction work about the Tokyo gas attacks perpetrated by the religious cult Aum in 1995. Murakami has said that it was the research for ‘Underground’ which inspired him to write a novel featuring a religious cult so it makes very interesting background reading on one of the central themes running through the novel.
Criticisms? I occasionally found some of the language a little clunky but given that it’s an English translation completed by two different translators under a tight deadline then that isn’t really Murakami’s fault. He did, however, deserve his nomination for a 2011 Bad Sex award for a certain passage in this book which was pretty odd even for him. But overall, ‘1Q84’ is a real treat. It’s complex, surreal, ambitious, and thoroughly engrossing and entertaining. More, please!