Book Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

“It is not that the meaning cannot be explained. But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.”

― Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

One of our most admired modern writers, Haruki Murakami, has taken on his most ambitious project yet with 1Q84, a novel that is a love tale, mystery, fantasy, self-discovery, dystopia to match George Orwell's. It became an instant best seller in his home Japan and is a remarkable work of imagination.

Synopsis from Goodreads...

The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

My reaction to this novel...

While reading critiques of Murakami's books, I have come across comparisons between his writing and nightmares. It's possible that Murakami greatly exaggerates dreams in order to explain their triumphs, setbacks, desires, and fantasies. Though I'm impressed by Murakami's ability to access his own mind, I agree with these assessments that everything seems rooted in fact.

In any case, these preceding pearls of wisdom seem very obvious to me. Within the first few hundred pages, I was drawn in like a small child reading a story. What would happen immediately was beyond my knowledge. His thought-exchanges were continuously captivating, his symbolism was incredibly potent, and the plot was both well-planned and disorganized. I was captivated by this mysterious encounter and couldn't get enough of it.

I found Murakami's characters in this book to be interesting, quirky, and fantastical. I would argue that they are level, but a closer look reveals that they have complex pasts, and that their distance is more the product of estrangement than subpar design. Two characters that fit this criteria are Tengo and Aomame. They both independently yearn for that one wonderful moment in their youth when they realized they were meant to be together as they navigate their early adulthood with a sense of alienation that verges on despair. They cannot, in any case, cross paths in a far-off existence. Like any great writers, Murakami has drawn me into his world and given me an introduction to the characters he writes about.

The book's climax disappointed me. I was ready for anything, but I was not ready for what I had expected at all. Interestingly, I felt that normalcy would be very different from what I had imagined when it finally returned. But I was mistaken. I wasn't overly taken aback when the book ended. Though I don't say this to brag, I don't read books with the ability to see ahead and figure out how they will end. Instead, I expected to be as shocked by the novel's conclusion as I had been for the most of what I was reading. But for some reason, after reading it, I didn't experience the emotions I was hoping for.

I know that some of you may think that this book's over 900 pages are too much to read in order to set the mood and place interesting characters in a way that would captivate the reader and draw them into the story. Even though the book is well-written and moves quickly for the most part, I felt duped by the author's decision to not connect important narrative points together in the end.

Given this, I'm pleased to recommend this book to anyone who haven't read it yet and encourage them to do so. The reading is well worth the time. Perhaps in the novel's last chapter, you will have a completely different insight from mine.

My Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨(3.5/5)


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