Book Review- 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

image

1Q84 (Part One) by Haruki Murakami

I read this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge #16 – Read the First Book in a Series by a Person of Colour.

The world of Haruki Murakami is a very, very weird one. Literally no-one writes like he does. All of his books are set in quiet towns in Japan where people with ordinary lives have extraordinary, strange and bizzare things happen to them. His work defies categorisation – weird Japanese realistic fantasy is about as close as I can get. However, the stories are so brilliantly written and beautifully detailed that the fantasy elements feel totally natural to the overall narrative – to the point where you can describe an entire book and forget to mention that the main character can converse with cats.

Having already read most of Murakami’s back catalogue I was concerned that the 1Q84 series would be too drawn out, too heavy on mundane details to have any real drive and that I would loose interest. However, after reading the first part of the trilogy I was plesantly surprised to be completely hooked.

The story itself centres around two main characters who each lead entirely separate lives. One is a self defense teacher by day and assassin by night who notices that the world that she lives in (Japan 1983) has subtly changed (hence 1Q83 – Q is the japanese for 9). The other character is a teacher/writer who encounters a strange author with an unbelievable story to tell. By the end of 1Q83 part one we are still not sure exactly how these two stranger’s lives are relevant to each other but there are many clues which suggest a number of different ways that the story could progress.

Due to the way Murakami writes it’s hard to work out what is relevant and what isn’t but for me this only adds to the excitement of the book. Magical and dreamlike, this is one of Murakami’s best works and is a story like no other. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Overall rating: 9/10.

Confessions of a book whore

“So many books, so little time” – Frank Zappa.

I have a confession to make. I am a book whore. I will read anything and everything. This includes cereal packets, shampoo ingredients, terms and conditions and whatever the person sitting next to me is reading (sorry). The act of reading itself is an escape for me, a way to go off into another world. Reading is an adventure.

I began “reading”as a newborn baby whilst my mother read aloud to me from nursery rhyme books. I learnt to read for myself at a very young age (it is debatable whether I had just memorized the stories) and have been devouring books ever since. I remember going to the library as a child and being upset about their six book limit – I could read all of my new books in a couple of days, and then what would I do for the rest of the week? At junior school I read every single book in their library twice. I chose my senior school because their library was the biggest.

The books that I’ve read have always reflected whatever stage of life I’m currently at. Growing up I read a lot of typical YA fiction including Judy Bloom, Paula Danziger (I never liked the tense that she wrote in) and pretty much all of the babysitters club books by Ann M Martin. By the time I got to uni I discovered fantasy and science fiction via my slightly gay boyfriend James. He was my next door neighbour and I remember seeing him in the garden reading Roger Zelazney’s Chronicles of Amber and deciding at that moment to sleep with him. So I did. (I then proceeded to read everything he owned and callously dumped him when I had finished. I’m not proud). My 20’s were a period of discovery and despite hating to travel I felt I had discovered a little of the world through Bill Bryson’s books. As I reached my 30’s I began to read more mid 20th century classics (predominantly by female authors) possibly because their main characters reflect my current housewife status. One book which really resonated with me is Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. I thoroughly understood what it is like to live in someone else’s house with the ghost of a previous occupant (in my case, my boyfriend’s mother) haunting you as you make inadequate pastry and ineffectually clean the silverware (see previous posts about my current domestic situation).

In much the same way that the music that you liked growing up affected the friends that you made at school, the subsequent clubs and parties that you went to, the clothes you wore and the activities that you participated in, I’ve found that books can have the same effect. A few years ago my best friend met her new partner through a mutual friend. He was much younger, trendiest, with dreams of becoming an actor whilst working in a minimum wage job. He didn’t get our cultural references. He was totally different to my other, settled, 30 something friends. I had nothing in common with him. At a party, we began talking about films (he loves them, I’m fairly indifferent to most) which lead to a conversation about books and specifically, Neil Gaiman. Suddenly, all of his friends wanted to join in with their opinions. Amazingly, every single person there said I love Neil Gaiman but… ” and proceeded to tell me why they loved some of his work but hated other parts. This lead to one of the geekiest, most intellectual group conversations ever held at a drunken get together. Surprisingly, we couldn’t agree on one single opinion. I hated American Gods but loved Neverwhere. Someone said it was the same story. Someone else disagreed vociferously. Someone said that American Gods was much more expansive. I said it was Neil Gaiman doing a Stephen King impression. No one agreed with me. People got animated. People got even more drunk. Everyone joined in. It was one of the best moments of my life.

My partner does not read. He has an academic job and says that as he reads scientific papers all day he wants a break when he gets home. I don’t understand this at all. He’s clearly missing out. Can a relationship between a reader and a non reader work? Does reading define me that much? I guess only time will tell. I’ll keep you updated.