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1Q84 Book Review

My personal opinions on Haruki Murakami's most ambitious novel to date, 1Q84.
1Q84 Book Review

📖What It’s About

1Q84 is a story with many moving pieces. Set in Japan in the year 1984, the story sees the two main characters, Tengo and Aomame, drawn into a parallel world slightly different from its origin. Many things are the same, and yet little details distinguish this newfound world for both Tengo and Aomame.

Tengo is a cram-school math instructor and fledging novelist. Aomame is a private fitness instructor who doubles as a master assassin at night. They live entirely separate lives until a Japanese religious cult is introduced into the picture. One way or another, both characters become implicated in separate conspiracies which center around this cult. Only through this can Tengo and Aomame’s long-lost connection be uncovered.

🧐How I Discovered the Book

Funny enough, this was not a book I originally intended to read. I had been wanting to read a Murakami book for some time but had never gotten around to it (I have a backlog of unread books in my closet). I was on a date with my girlfriend, Nika, and we went to Half-Price Books with the idea that we would each buy each other something to read. I found something for her, and she picked something for me as well, but I mentioned Murakami and so we set out to see if the store had any Murakami books. We ended up finding 1Q84, the thickest Murakami book ever, almost 1200 pages. I had no idea what it was about, but I committed to it right then and there.

🧠General Thoughts, Likes, Dislikes

Overall, 1Q84 was a great read. It was super long, 1157 pages to be exact. It took me almost 3 weeks to crank through it, but every ounce of attention I put towards it was well worth it. The story was compelling, the characters unique.

One of my favorite things about 1Q84 was the mode of storytelling; Murakami structured the chapters by character perspective. It’s a chapter from Tengo’s perspective, and then Aomame, so on so forth. I think this made the book more engaging and contributed to it being such a page turner. It’s also really fun to see how their separate stories intertwine before it actually occurs, and this is enabled as a result of having access to both character perspectives.

In addition to the story telling, I loved the magical realism genre that 1Q84 embodies. At times, you don’t know what’s real and what isn’t, so it keeps you on your toes and it’s almost like a mystery to be solved. It’s a quick fix of fantasy, but not so much so that you’re transported to an entirely different world.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was the accessibility. It wasn’t a hard book to process, and so I could really fall into a groove without having to think too terribly hard about what I just read. I realize some prefer a more challenging read, so maybe this would be a dislike for others, but I appreciated it. Murakami’s prose is simple and to-the-point but does not leave anything to be desired.

My final appreciation for this book comes from all of its’ allusions. Throughout the book, Murakami alludes to all sorts of other art, including classical music, jazz music, old literature, etc. Not that I am knowledgeable on these topics, but I think it’s cool to then listen to or learn about what the allusion is referring to.

I can’t really complain or find any dislikes besides the descriptions of numerous woman and sexual encounters throughout the book. I know there is an argument that Murakami is sexist and that his overly sensual descriptions of woman and teenage girls are a bit far, and I could agree with this. It gets a bit weird at times. There is a specific scene where Tengo, a grown man, has sex with a 17 year old girl. It is central to the plot, but I find myself wondering if that was really necessary?

Overall, despite my complaint, the likes far outweigh the dislikes. 1Q84 is a masterfully written, flawlessly constructed book. It is an undertaking of a read, much less a project for Murakami to successfully execute. For this, I give the book 5 stars. This is one of the best books I have read.

😎Who Would Enjoy this Book?

I think 1Q84 would be enjoyable for many different readers.

If you’re just getting into Murakami, maybe don’t start here. I don’t regret reading this book as my first Murakami book, but it is certainly a commitment. If you don’t jive with the plotline or the story in general, it would be awfully painful to get through.

Otherwise, dive right in. If you’re someone who likes a complex storyline and some fantastical elements, this is absolutely the story for you. Also, if you’re a psycho like me who has some inherent attraction to books that look like dictionaries, this one is also for you. Have a go at it.