1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

4/5 stars.
ebook, 1050 pages.
Read from November 06 to December 19, 2015.

There are certain books that haunt you long after you’ve read them. Books that have you so interwoven in the plot and story that you feel like you’ve been there. And characters that you feel like you’ve known for a lifetime. That was this book for me. Again, Murakami has managed to impress me. While his writing style isn’t for everyone, this monster of a novel is not as threatening as is looks.

This isn’t your typical fiction novel. It’s an all encompassing book that covers a few genres: dystopia, romance, mystery and fantasy. Set in the 1980’s in Japan, a young woman named Aomame discovers that she has crossed over into a parallel universe. She aptly names it 1Q84, the “Q” meaning question mark. Meanwhile math teacher and aspiring writer, Tengo, is agreeing to a sketchy ghostwriting assignment that introduces him to the strange and remarkable girl named Fukaeri. After some defining experiences  in a religious cult, Fukaeri has pressing need to tell her story. For Tengo, something about writing this young girl’s story and her beliefs start to awaken something in him and he knows that even if he is discovered as the ghost writer of her story, it is essential that he writes it. Tengo’s timid life begins to awaken. The plot lines between Aomame and Tengo begin to merge as you learn that they once knew each other as school children and shared a moment that has marked both of them. They don’t know it, but they have since yearned and thought of each other since that day. Connected to each other, both Aomame and Tengo have a major part to play in the unfolding of Fukaeri’s story and the world of 1Q84.

In looking at other reviews of this book and there are some clear haters of this novel! I suppose I can understand why: it’s long, it’s peculiar and if Murakami’s style and character’s don’t resonate with you, then you will likely also hate this book. Some of the reviews mention the the misogynist and male view in regards to anything sexual in the book and in a way, while I was reading the reviews, it dawned upon me that they’re not completely wrong. However, while I was reading the book itself I didn’t notice these points and it ultimately just didn’t read or feel that way to me. I also don’t believe it was the author’s intention either. Anything sexual in the book felt, to me, essential to the characters and the peculiar plot, especially once you learn about the love that Aomame and Tengo share. The sex that they were having previously and the lives that they were living prior to finding one another was a way to fill an emotional hole that only the two of them could fill. Additionally, if you read enough Murakami you will find that sex always seems to find its way into his novels and usually in a very strange way; try reading Kafka on the Shore if you want something really weird!

Based on the Murakami books I’ve read so far this is a pretty decent breakdown,the only thing it’s missing is sex:
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In this novel, classical music is focused on more than Jazz, specifically the work by Leoš Janáček. There is also a Town of Cats in which Tengo visits his father, ears are definitely mentioned, Tengo has repeated weird dream sequences/flashbacks of his mother, and there a lot of talk about food. Tengo and Aomame both cook a lot. I wonder if Murakami is constantly hungry while he writes? I just finished his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and he is a major runner and triathlete so my guess is that, yes, he is always hungry. I know the pain!

Anyways, I haven’t stopped thinking about this novel. I finished this book before I moved over to Hong Kong actually and while I haven’t been to Japan (yet), where this book was set, there was something about moving over to Hong Kong that felt like I was stepping into 1Q84. There is just something about this story that just hits me; it’s story of self-discovery and romance that is actually romantic  The character’s self-reflection is intriguing and philosophical, yet relatable. While the book was long, I found myself looking forward to reading it and I didn’t have to  trudge through it in the slightest.

In terms of recommendations, if you like Murakami then I would definitely read this book! If you’re considering reading Murakami for the first time, I think I would hold off on this one and try perhaps, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage first. Overall, this book is going on my life of favourites, something I haven’t done in almost 4 years!

 

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

19288239

4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 386 pages.
Read from December 24, 2014 to January 04, 2015.

This is now the second book I’ve read by Murakami and he is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. Murakami has a way of reaching into his readers souls, in a sometimes abstract, but also profound and wonderful way.

Tsukuru is complete in his group of four friends, two girls and two boys. The five of them have an other worldly connection, however Tsukuru has always felt a little bit different from his friends. All of his friend’s last names relate to a color in the Japanese language, whereas Tsukuru’s means “to build”. Tsukuru and his friends use these colors as nicknames: Aka (red), Ao (blue), Shiro (white), Kuru (black) and they occasionally. but harmlessly, tease Tsukuru by calling him Colorless Tsukuru. After high school, Tsukuru moves to Tokyo, away from his dear friends in order to go to university so that he can learn to build trains, one of his passions. Tsukuru goes back and visits his friends as often as he can but during one of his visits his friends suddenly stop returning his calls and just like that, Colorless Tsukuru loses the people he cares about the most. He doesn’t ask or pursue why for nearly 15 years as the loss was just too devastating. The event changes his life forever and Tsukuru has to learn to define himself without the connections of his friends. Over the years Tsukuru struggles to maintain relationships and his happiness until he meets a young woman named Sara. This intriguing young woman, ignites something in Tsukuru and she pushes him to to look into his past and close some of the emotional wounds that are still weeping after his friends abandoned him.

Tsukuru story is about the journey we take to learn and define ourselves and the necessary sacrifices and risks that come with it, especially in terms of love.  The book also deeply touches on regret and reflects the situations where should have taken action. For Tsukuru, some of his regrets take form in his dreams. The book is also about change, mostly positive change, and how our personal growth  shapes and changes us based on the scenarios we go through and how we suffer.

I read this book over the Christmas holidays, which is always a busy time, but I wanted nothing more than to just sit down and devour this book. The book just spoke to me, which I believe it’s meant to, on a very generic scale, but I mean that in a good way. There are qualities and emotions that Murakami’s characters exude that almost any reader can relate to, a quality which,  many writer’s have, but I think Murakami’s characters go further than that. Readers start to look inward while examining Murakami’s characters. Like with Tsukuru,  his regrets and anguish make a reader look inward and examine their remaining scars, wounds and regrets that they’re still dealing with and through Tsukuru’s story, the reader feels a bit braver to deal with their own situation or perhaps a bit calmer after coming to terms with their own regrets.

Additionally, the writing is amazing. Even thought Murakami writes in Japanese, nothing gets lost in translation and every sentence is just as essential and potent in English.

Honestly, I would like to recommend this book to everyone and I’d be surprised if this book doesn’t remain one of my favourite reads of 2015. Great read!