Published by Harvill Secker on October 2011 (first published 2009)
Genres: Japanese literature, Magical realism
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The year is 1984. The fates of Aomame and Tengo are intertwined.
I first picked up this book in late December 2011. Yes, it nearly took me a year to finish. And often enough I was extremely frustrated with this book. Mostly because this book was a deceivingly slow read. As a friend suggested, even the fastest reader could probably not finish this book very quickly. At the same time, I’ve read far longer books that took me less time and that were more engaging. Plenty of times I had to put 1Q84 down because I just got tired of it.
1Q84 consists of three books. Book ONE probably took me longest to read. The story was slow, there was too much repitition within the book (like: do we really have to read 20 times what Tengo’s memory of his mother is?), and everything seemed to go nowhere. I would go as far as describing it as a very long introduction. Book TWO picked up on speed and, unlike what I read in reviews, I didn’t think there was as much repetition. Many aspects of the story were finally coming together and, as I remember phrasing on Twitter while reading: ‘shit goes down’. This definitely made the story more interesting to read and I finally felt eager to continue. But it was annoying that it took more than 300 pages for this to happen! While reading book THREE, what I was most afraid of was that the whole book was going to have a typical, unsatisfying, Murakami-ish ending. I can live with the endings he gave to his other books (like Sputnik Sweetheart, which worked really well), but I didn’t think I could stand such an ending after going through so many frustrations. Thankfully, the story was closed off in a satisfying enough way. There were plenty of loose ends, but nothing that will keep nagging me.
After finishing the book I had to take my time to think it over and give it a rating. For all the frustration I felt while reading, I feel oddly lost now that I’ve finished it. I can’t decide if reading it was worth the ‘trouble’, but at the same time I was satisfied with the ending. And many aspects of the story, particularly in book THREE, were genius in my opinion. I really have a love-hate relationship with this book. Despite everything, I was close to giving it five stars, but book ONE made me decide on four instead (actually, probably three-and-a-half, but closer to four).
Is this book worth reading? Is it worth the trouble? If you’re a patient reader and if you can fight your way through book ONE (and keep your patience during the other two books), then yes. If you expect a work of perfection, you will absolutely be disappointed. If this is your first Murakami book: please put it down!