Book Review – 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

That’s what the world is, after all; an endless battle of contrasting memories.

1Q84I don’t mind usurping another reviewer’s thoughts when they strike a chord, so I’ll shamelessly steal the idea that this is Murakami’s marathon novel. The man writes and runs, so at 1,157 pages, 1Q84 appears to be a fusion of the two. Running a marathon takes endurance, writing a literary equivalent takes endurance, and finally reading the result takes endurance. Such a book is asking a lot from everyone involved, and with that in mind, I feel some slack should be cut. There will be stumbles, scraped knees, and moments of sheer monotony. But there will also be moments of zen, cheering onlookers, and the unbeatable feeling of having crossed the finish line.

1Q84, much as the “Q” suggests, leaves the reader with several unanswered questions. When reviewing a book, the question(!) is: Does the book leave the most important question unanswered? Sure, take a few potshots at those fourth and fifth stars for riling up your interest in the peripheral stuff and leaving you hanging. That’s fair. But overall, can you answer someone when they ask, “What’s that book about?”

Murakami introduces all sorts of fantastical elements in this story – chrysalises that are spun out of air, strange interdimensional “Little People” that are up to no good, and a disembodied consciousness that knocks on doors demanding people pay for their public television. Though these strands intrigue the reader and some may feel slighted by Muarkami’s lack of follow-through, they exist at the margins of the real story–the idea that pure love transcends anything this crazy universe throws at it. Destiny is destiny up to a certain point, but people have the ability to control the most important parts of their lives.

Did Murakami need over a thousand pages to tell this story? Who’s to say? It was his story to tell. If we grow tired of the seemingly endless prose, maybe that should reflect more on personal tastes than the book before us.

I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t recommend 1Q84 for a first-time Murakami reader. It probably shouldn’t be if you don’t know what to expect, but I find myself looking forward to reading more of his work.

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0 thoughts on “Book Review – 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

  1. I admire you for pushing through this project, Phillip. And it does seem like a project! I see “national bestseller” on the cover and I just know thousands of people bought it but never finished it. Like my old boxed set of “Remembrance of Things Past.”

    I’ve read a couple of Murakami’s books and they’re always fascinating. He strikes me as one of those lucky few writers who gets to let his imagination run wild yet is embraced by publishing.

    1. Thank you, Kevin. It’s funny you mention Proust because he was brought up a few times in 1Q84. Must have been some inside-jokery there. I agree with the luck of this guy. Outside of its length, there were some absurd things in this book, but Murakami seems to get away with it.

  2. This is so true — “maybe that should reflect more on personal tastes than the book before us” — and (to me anyway) the main challenge of book reviewing. A good book reviewer (I do count you as one in that small party) has an open mind and will question his/her own reaction to a book, not just assume that if he/she loved it or hated it, that’s all that needs to be said. That’s why your reviews are excellent. I come away curious about the book in question, free to explore and make up my own mind, but with the advantage of your insight and experience. Sadly, I think adding IQ84 to my TBR tower might actually topple it 😉

    1. Thank you Marie. I try to walk that fine line between being subjective and objective with my reviews, much as I know you do as well. It’s good to try and separate the reasons why I may not like a book on a personal level vs. things that are just done poorly (lack of follow-through on plot, etc.)

  3. I’ve also heard that people should read other books by Murakami before tackling this. Congrats on making it through it! I might wait a bit before taking this on. Great review though.

    1. Thank you Linda. Might not be a book you want to pick up until you’re ready (though who knows if we’re ever ready for a 1,000+ page book!)

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