Haruki Murakami 村上 春樹
Books 1 & 2 (2009), 624 pages – Translated by Jay Rubin
Book 3 (2010), 368 pages – Translated by Philip Gabriel
Books 1 & 2 Christmas Present
Book 3, Charity Shop, €1
I received Books 1 & 2 as a Christmas present in 2012 but it took me until 2014 to eventually finish 1Q84. I love Haruki Murakami’s novels but, frankly, I was underwhelmed by 1Q84. Murakami’s characters are well drawn and have all the quirkiness you would expect from a Murakami character. Unfortunately the plot lacks enough of an engine to drive it over 3 books and almost a thousand pages.
The book is set in 1984 and includes a hitwoman, Aomame, who can kill her victims without leaving any evidence. Already I was left with a slight lack of credibility that Aomame would be able to kill people without leaving any cause of death on the body. If Aomame had used some special power to kill her victims I could suspend my belief to accept that but I find it hard to believe that she can physically leave a body with no signs of death. The story surrounding the young author Fuka-Eri and her relationship with her editor Tengo (who actually has to rewrite part of Fuka-Eri’s novel to make it a bestseller) is good even if the lust he feels for her smacks slightly of an older man’s fantasy (and their sex scene is bizarrely horrific even if the purpose of their sex isn’t sexual pleasure). Tengo’s terrible relationship with his father is excellently described and is unresolved by the end of the book. The main plot revolves around a religious cult (something Murakami knows about if you’ve read his non-fiction book Underground), the cult’s sexually abusive leader, Fuka-Eri’s link to the cult, and a group of fairy-like creatures called the Little People and their creation of an “Air Chrysalis “. The Little People and the Air Chrysalis are vital cogs in the entire plot but, for me, they were completely inadequate (in terms of their explanation and function) to keep me fully engaged for three books. By the end of the book I didn’t really care what happened just as long as it finished soon.
Over almost a thousand pages 1Q84 lacks the meat to sustain a reader. The length of 1Q84 results in a thin plot spread out so thinly that instead of enjoying the usual Murakami feast, you are left with a bowl of watered down gruel. Nonetheless a below par Murakami is still better than many novelists out there. 1Q84 has been an international bestseller and had plenty of positive reviews (although sometimes I think book reviewers fear to give world renowned authors a bad review) so I presume some of 1Q84‘s readers enjoyed the books more than I did!