Haruki Murakami’s epic ode to Orwell’s dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four focuses on two characters who met briefly as children called Tengo and Aomame. The year is 1984, and separately and at different junctures they each stumble upon an alternative world which has two moons, a world which Aomame dubs 1Q84. The pair long to find each other again, but circumstances align to make this difficult: Aomame’s job as an assassin, a cult leader who is predating on young girls for sex, and Tengo’s offer to ghostwrite a strange novella by an odd girl named Eriko Fukada - a novella which features ‘little people’, an air chrysalis, and a world with two moons...
1Q84 is a difficult novel to define as it is highly unusual and original in content - a fact which I’m sure you have figured out from my attempt at giving a coherent premise! It is a sort of sci-fi fantasy work; it bears Murakami’s trademark surrealism and general feeling of oddness; however it never feels too farfetched or weird. I have only read one Haruki Murakami novel before - Norwegian Wood - and I did not like it very much. As such, I was discouraged from reading another of his books despite having a couple sitting on my bookshelf. 1Q84, however, is brilliant, and I really enjoyed it.
The novel is split into three long books. All of the chapters are written in third person, and they alternate between focusing on Aomame and then Tengo in the first two books. However, book three has an additional perspective - that of Ushikawa, a character who plays a minor role in books one and two.
1Q84 is very long - my copy is over 1,000 pages. The prose meanders lazily along and the story is perhaps a little drawn out. I didn’t mind this though; it reflects the thoughtful and philosophical nature of the piece which I really liked:
“If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there’s salvation in life. Even if you can’t get together with that person.”
“I can bear any pain as long as it has meaning.”
1Q84 is certainly not a book for everyone - it’s a bit weird, it’s slow and for a significant portion not an awful lot happens. However it has a distinct beauty; it’s a novel to read slowly and ponder over, to enjoy at a leisurely pace, and one that should be embarked upon with an open mind. It is a highly original, imaginative and intelligent novel, but for me the conclusion was disappointing: after such a long build up it was anti-climactic and ended rather abruptly, and not all of the loose ends were tied up. I’m very glad I gave Murakami another chance after Norwegian Wood, and now I’m looking forward to reading some of his other novels.