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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Review of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami



's review originally published in Goodreads 

1Q84 is a strange book that I almost gave up reading numerous times. Nearly 1000 pages, it is full of seemingly trivial details that repeat again and again. 

Yet I did come back. In fact, I am within 50 pages of the finish, so I am well positioned to discuss the book, yet there is no danger I will give away the ending. I will definitely finish it soon, because of the strange spell this book has on me, plus my own stubborn determination to finish any task into which I have sunk deep resources into (I have read over 850 pages already) guarantees I will finish reading it. 

Do I recommend it to you? As the characters in the book feel about their own quandaries, I am not sure. I can easily see someone throwing it down and cursing me for roping them into reading it. The chapters seem to meld together, and the details we learn about the characters and their environment repeat, again and again like a Buddhist chant. And yet, I can also see other readers so captivated by it, that they will seriously wonder about my lack of literary taste because I wasn’t over the moon with praise. Or rather over the two moons.

Tengo is a man about thirty, accomplished as a writer and teacher of mathematics, big, athletic, and painfully shy. His mother left her husband when he was a very young child and the husband raised him. He was poor, and as Tengo subsequently learns, not his biological father. But once out of the house Tengo’s exterior life prospers. His major longing in life is for a girl who had been his classmate when he was ten years old. 

Her name was Aomame and she grows up to be an assassin of men who sexually abuse young girls. She is pretty, athletic and also painfully shy. She too longs for the boy she knew when she was ten. This longing goes on, back and forth even when they are within shouting distance of each other, for the first 900 pages. I still don’t know if they will meet. 

They are connected by a strange teenage girl named Fuka-Eri who has written a book about the little people who actually control the world. Tengo’s editor convinces him to polish her book, and edit it for publication. He does and it, titled “Air Chrysalis”, becomes a mega best seller. 

To both Aomame and Tengo, the world of Air Chrysalis becomes real. There are indeed two moons in the sky, and other more subtle differences between the world of 1984, when the story is originally set, to the new world of 1Q84. 

And there is a religious cult called Sakigake that doesn’t like the story of Air Chrysalis being published and is after both Aomame and Tengo. Aomame must use her skills as a killer, while Tengo tries to learn the secrets of his slowly dying stepfather.

It is not a thriller by any means, in fact, it is difficult to fit it into any genre. That alone might be what has kept me coming back to get to the end. The author Murakami, takes his time, and builds the suspense - builds it past what often seems like the breaking point, but you soon see that that is the point. The novel is a different sort of story.

As I said, I can’t wait to get back to it. Reader discretion advised.

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