Welcome to my first ever attempt at a book review!
I am a late comer to the fiction of Haruki Murakami. My father gave me a copy of Kafka on the Shore for my birthday three years ago and I have been hooked ever since. The best way I can think of to describe his fiction is a combination of surrealism and fantasy, in average everyday settings. Even the obscenely strange comes off normal and commonplace in his writing. While the writing is at times graphically sexual and sometimes violent, Murakami’s strength comes in creating characters that are easy to relate to, that are complex but likable. Whether because of good translators or his natural writing style, the books are dense with fantastic language and imagery. At his best he created epic love stories and worlds that ring true and hold up to question.
“Don’t let appearances fool you, there is only one reality.” Aomame has these words in her head as she climbs down a set of stairs, taking her off a raised highway and out of the world she knows and into a world she names 1Q84, a world with a question, where thing are not always as they seem and the subtle differences go unnoticed by the majority of the people in this world.
Murakami’s latest novel, 1Q84, begins with Aomane’s entrance into this world. The other protagonist in the novel, Tengo, unaware that he is also now in this same world, undertakes an ethically blurry ghostwriting project, rewriting the story of a 17 year old girl named Fuka-Eri. This choice quickly takes his life in dangerous and complex directions. The ghostwriting inspiring his own creativity, but putting him on the radar of a dangerous cult with sinister secrets and motives.
As the connection between Aomame and Tengo becomes more clear, their stories blend and their brief shared past keeps them connected in ways they cannot understand or even explain. Things are not as they seem, and neither Aomame or Tengo are prepared for the dangers or mysteries that await them as they race towards each other, both wondering if a meeting is possible, or wise, or if the other will even remember or feel the same way, or if the cult will kill them both before any meeting can take place.
As with most Murakami novels, more questions are answered than ever answered. I had a writing teacher who advised that you either answer all questions in a story, or none, but that is not how most of our lives work. We most often do not get all the answers, there are rarely tidy endings where we understand everything. Things seldom end up in perfectly closed packages, and the information and answers we do get while reading this novel are satisfying, if incomplete. It is at its heart, a love story. One filled with death and destruction, danger and sadness, possibility and hope. Another fantastic novel by Murakami.