1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1q84Wow.  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!


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30 responses to “1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

  1. I really liked this book, but I think I had some of the same reservations as you by the time I put it down. And thank you THANK YOU for introducing me to the Bad Sex Awards.


  2. Great review 🙂


  3. This seems like a challenging read! I’ve been reading Love in the Time of Cholera for months already and I’m still not done with it yet, so I have reservations about this 925-page long novel. But being the Murakami fan that I am since Norwegian Wood, I’d definitely give it a try. Plus you’ve got a very convincing review here. Thanks for sharing!


  4. Hi! It looks like you’ve read some Murakami books. I’m planning on starting one but I don’t know what novel to pick. If I may ask, what’s your favorite or what would you recommend? Thanks a lot! 😀


    • A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

      The first Murakami book I read was Norwegian Wood which is as good a place to start as any… Sputnik Sweetheart is also really good if you want to start with one of his shorter works. I think my all-time favourite is probably Kafka on the Shore but I also really liked The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Dance Dance Dance – they are probably my top 3 🙂


  5. My first Murakami was ‘Dance Dance Dance’ and then ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles’ which I adored and couldn’t stop dreaming about for days – it was like opening the third eye, going down the well. I can’t wait to read this over the summer, I love your review, the best one I’ve read, I can tell you are a real appreciator of Murakami’s work.


  6. kyohinaa

    Hello fellow Murakami fan! I always feel slightly depressed at the end of a good book… its like the characters have abandoned me and disappeared into their own world, where I can’t reach. Anyway, great review 🙂


  7. My first was The Elephant Vanishes, which I love. I will try Underground.


  8. I just finished Kafka on the Shore and loved it. I can’t wait to start this one, although the length does slightly put me off. I remember feeling this way when I started the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – it, too, was dauntingly long – but I got through it and even wanted more. Murakami has a way of doing that to you. You tend to get lost in the story and his off-the-wall characters – and that’s probably one of the things I enjoy most about reading.


  9. Thank you for the review. I will now tackle the book, as I have been daunted by its length. Kafka On The Shore fascinated me, so I look forward to reading 1Q84. Nella


  10. I’ve read the 1Q84 trilogy and I was really impressed by the 1st and the 2nd novels, but I must say the 3rd one kind of disappointed me because I was probably expecting something else in the end. From all of Murakami’s novels this one made me feel like there were still many things to be said. Anyway, it’s definitely worth reading and VERY catchy!


  11. we seem to share the same love! here is my review: http://wordsandpeace.com/2011/11/15/80-review-1q84/ That was my best read of 2011


  12. 최다해 gongjumonica

    I haven’t read any Murakami book, but I want to try this one. In fact, I already have a copy of this though it’s still in the far end of my reading list! TT


  13. I’ve been so curious to read this. I just read the Wind-Up Bird Chronicles last year upon a recommendation, and I was unsure of how I would like it, but I was entranced.

    (Love your blog, p.s. I feel like we have similar taste in books so I’ll be back!)


  14. doiank

    Great review for a great book ! Haruki Murakami is an excellent writer, all of his books are so good!


  15. A lot of people commenting have seemed to wish to stay in the land of 1Q84, and I felt that way when I finished reading it as well! After reading it, I decided to reread 1984 to see how Murakami was influenced by that book, and I wrote a little about it here: http://wp.me/p26InE-5O
    I want to try to read all of the books 1Q84 references while keeping 1Q84 (the world) in mind, as a way to keep myself in the world. Thoughts?


  16. I also love Murakami, and bought 1Q84 once it came out. Loved it! Was so sad when it was done… I tried to slow myself down to savor the read, but just couldn’t do it… his pull is just too strong.

    Also loved your review. (The “Q” in 1Q84 may very well stand for “question mark” in your eyes, but as I’m sure you already know, the Japanese word for the number nine is pronounced the same as the word “queue”, or simply, “Q”.)

    I don’t yet have all of his books, but I’m almost there. I keep giving copies away to friends. And, like you, I’m also a re-reader of the books I truly love. Just finished re-reading “A Wild Sheep Chase”, and it was so delicious.



  17. kim's scrapbook

    This book is waiting in the wings as my Japan book
    the size scares me so i am saving it for when i am not working and can, as you say, wallow in it


  18. I have a post about Murakami and his stories. Can you check it out some time ? 🙂 http://peysthebooks.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/recommended-author-no-1/ .. thanks 🙂


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  20. I have a mini-vacation coming soon so I’ve been reading reviews of 1Q84 to see if it’s what I want to bring along. This review finally pushed me off the fence and I’m going to move it up my queue. (About time!) I never used to mind long books, but now that I have less time than I’d like for reading, I feel as though I need to make an effort to guarantee they’ll be worth the time investment before I start.

    Thanks for the review!


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  25. I also surprisingly enjoyed this book, even considering its enormous size and magical realism theme. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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  27. I found all the sexual content in this book pretty bad. So, I am curious which scene in particular you were referring to? Was it Fuka-Eri and Tengo? That said, I loved the rest of the book.


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