Haruki Murakami – 1Q84


*The following information applies to the English hardcover edition. (the novel was originally published in Japanese in 2009/2010).*

Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Jay Rubin (Books 1 and 2) and Phillip Gabriel (Book 3)

Title: 1Q84
Published: October 2011
Publisher: Knopf
Length: 925 pages
Genre: Post-modern surrealism
Target age: Adult
Why I picked it up: Fan of the author, massively hyped
Rating: 2 stars
Buy: Chapters | IndieBound | Check your local bookstore!

Weehoo, I finished it, I finished it! The last two hundred pages made me feel like Frodo climbing up Mount Doom and now that I’m done I feel like Frodo laying on the mountain waiting to die…well, perhaps I exaggerate. I don’t know how I stuck it out to the end – I suppose it has to do with good ole’ Samwise Gamgee, always there to carry me through. Except that’s a lie, there was no Sam, I had to tough it on my own. Booo. But it’s all over now, so that’s that.

As you might have gathered from extended Lord of the Rings metaphor up there (sorry, couldn’t resist, watched 7.5 hours of LotR movies last weekend), I was not very happy with this book. Honestly, I was immensely disappointed by it and I am greatly impressed by those who are not. Interestingly, I also wasn’t that impressed by the book that preceded 1Q84…I hope Murakami’s not losing his touch! (Although I did like After Dark more than this 1Q84 if only because it’s a fraction of the length…). Why did I not enjoy this book?

The main answer to that question is there was very little substance. A few things happen regarding a book and a murder…augggh, but see, if I describe how I felt nothing happened then you might think I’m just not that thoughtful and didn’t realize what was happening. Granted, that may be the case, but I got a lot out of Kafka on the Shore and I didn’t get anything at all out of 1Q84. I couldn’t really grasp any underlying message, any purpose to anything that happened. Murakami’s not one to lay out a story neat and tidy for a reader, but I can usually piece things together to gain some meaning – not so with this novel. The third book consisted of three people waiting around to find each other. Basically, three events happen but nothing is very notable. The end. The third book was so lifeless (although the last ten pages or so were nice, admittedly) it made me forget that some things did happen. I remember there were a few moments in the first two books when I was shocked/surprised at something that happened, but the novel just dragged on sooooo long I forget that there was anything I remotely liked about it. Maybe it all boils down to the length. But even if you cut out the last book, I would still not be overtly impressed. I feel like this novel lacked the heart of other Murakami books I read. It’s all about the love between Tengo and Aomame and eventually that comes out but not until the very end. Everything to do with the book and the cult and Tengo’s first memory and anything that seemed like it was going to matter eventually didn’t. Maybe that’s the point. It was a very long and winding crazy novel but eventually you get to the end and realize none of it mattered. Haha, I think that’s the message I’ll take from this. My parents ask me ‘What’s it about? what does it have to with 1984?’ and I say ‘I don’t know, it’s difficult to explain’ and those are honest answers. It’s a love story, ultimately, I suppose? Bah, I’ve blathered on long enough. I don’t really know what I’m talking about. This hasn’t been a very good analysis of the novel’s story or what did/didn’t happen in the book so just to sum up – ultimately, I feel like this novel was lacking in the crucial something that might have brought it to life. (Perhaps a professional review would be better at conveying what I feel about this book – click here to read one that I agree with.)

Somehow, I managed to make it through books one and two without being to upset. No worries, this is how Murakami is, I’m sure it’ll all come together in the last book. The last book was fairly different from the first two, though, and by the time I was around page 700 I wanted to give up. What had gotten me in that far was Murakami’s prose. I don’t know what it is about his writing style. I can’t tell you why I like it. I just know that I can read 30 pages at a time no problem, just patiently reading every word and enjoying the flow of his words. Had this book been written in anyone else’s style, I probably would not have made it through. The best part of 1Q84, however, is probably the book design. The cover image I’ve posted above doesn’t do it justice. The translucent book jacket, the overlapping images, the symmetry and the soft smooth pages made this book somewhat easier to read.

Who knows, maybe I just totally missed the point of this novel. Maybe it’s just not for me. I felt like the story was greatly lacking even though I liked the characters (I didn’t talk about the characters at all in this post and I don’t feel like saying anymore. But I did like Tengo and Aomame and sometimes strange Fuka-Eri and weird Ushikawa). At least I have a pretty book for bookshelf.