1Q84 (1Q84 #1 - 3) by Haruki Murakami

Book 1 - April - June
Book 2 - July - September
Book 3 - October - December

Two moons. Janacek Sinfonietta. Cult. Little People.

While listening to classical music in a taxi during heavy traffic, Aomame thinks of the composer's history and the origin of her name. She imagines her life probably better if her name is not Aomame - which means "green peas" in Japanese. Aomame is on her way to meet a client, and the taxi driver suggests her the alternative to avoid the traffic. She decides to use the emergency escape stairs of the expressway to avoid arriving late for the meeting.

Tengo has been struggling to deal with his first memory dated from the time he was one and a half. This particular sexualised scene of his mother with another man has been stamped into his memory the entire life. The scene appears to him anytime anywhere, causes him to lost all connection around him along with sweat and rapid heartbeat. Tengo met Komatsu five years ago when he was short-listed for Komatsu's magazine's new writers' prize competition. Tengo didn't win the prize, but Komatsu was interested in reading his next work and knowing his background. Tengo teaches mathematics at a private school and later hired as a part-time screener for the literary magazine's new writers' prize. Komatsu suggests him to rewrite one of the contestants' stories as he sees this as a successful project for both Tengo and the writer. However, Tengo is hesitant as coauthorship is risky and views it as a scam and unethical.

The story continues with Aomame climbs the emergency stairway and reaches to a hotel room on time. There aren't many details given about her work although she seems highly skilled in her assassination on a wealthy man who is immoral and unethical in his job. As the story progresses, it gradually reveals some details of her work. At the same time, she feels there is a shift of change surrounding her, but not herself. She begins to trace back when the world changes to a different track. Everything seems changed from the time after she climbed the emergency stairway.

Meanwhile, Komatsu arranges Tengo to meet the short story writer, Fuka-Eri, a taciturn high school girl. Tengo feels difficult to grasp what's on Fuka-Eri's mind; nevertheless, he feels something about her that pulls him to delve into her mysterious world. The story focuses not only on Tengo's present life but also on the revelation of his family and his indifferent childhood.

In the second book, Tengo and Aomame experienced the disappearance of someone they knew and related to the same religious organisation. Tengo and Aomame never met for twenty years, but the indescribable powerful force has brought them to the world 1Q84. The second book offers more details about the strong connection between Tengo and Aomame, which started twenty years ago without their knowledge.

Ushikawa appears as a minor character in the second book but is given in-depth details of his role in the third book. The beginning of the third book will raise the eyebrows of so many readers of why the Leader's bodyguards seem to know the existence of every one of the entire story.

Personal Thoughts

I've read a few reviews about this book because I'm curious about the reason for the average rating that doesn't match the book's popularity. A few readers suggested not to read this as the first book from the author, and some were disappointed with the story.

I don't know what I will feel when I reach the third book. Surprisingly, so far, I still can tolerate with the superfluous descriptions and the slow pace. I don't know whether my tolerance is related to my attitude of 'taking it slow' and not to rush in finishing the book. Besides the pace, I really loved the usage of words in this book. The wordings are so precise and beautifully chosen to be fitted into the context.

One of the parts that pull me into the character's world is when Tengo talks to Fuka-Eri, who is expressionless and offers little words in the conversation. If I were him, I don't know how to react if someone talks to me in a similar manner. I'm not sure whether she is asking me a question or making a statement. But once the conversation ends, I guess I need to take a deep breath before return to the real world, similar to how Tengo feels after the phone call ends.

The slow pace probably will bore some readers, but I felt the life story of both the main and side characters are really remarkable and fascinating to read. For example, Fuka-Eri's father used to strive for his ideology but turned to a different direction. Aomame befriends Ayumi, a policewoman that faces gender discrimination in her work and relieving stress through casual sex. All these bits and pieces had made the book such an intriguing to read. It's as if reading or witnessing real persons' lives, Aomame and Tengo with random people that appear in their lives.

One thing that I liked about this story is the themes which share by both characters. It feels like a treasure hunt, searching for the common things that Tengo and Aomane shares in their lives. This story has so many apparent themes that are associated with each other but in a different manner. This makes the story even more compelling. For example, both like to listen to a specific piece of orchestral music. Both have been told with the story of a mysterious cult.

Another interesting part of the story is the NHK fee collector. I feel it's intriguing to read about the NHK fee collector that keeps knocking on their doors, and he always so sure someone is inside the house. He will keep knocking and rambling something about avoiding to pay the fee but at the same time, whatever he says are related to the occupant's life or their thoughts at that time. In fact, some characters are quite mysterious and can read people's minds.

This book seems has been a controversial debate among readers. Some of the fans were disappointed after reading this book, but some readers really liked the story. I was sceptical when other readers are warning others not to read this as a first book from the author. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed reading the story. I can't explain why, as if a strong attraction exists which keeps pulling me to continue reading this book. I'm not a fan of stories with numerous sexual scenes, but somehow, I can tolerate the content, although some parts seem uncomfortable to read. I can't say it's a perfect story, but at the same time, I can't find anything that I disliked about this book. It's that the reason why Haruki Murakami is so famous? Or it was the translator's brilliance work? The author has a unique writing style that captures your interest and brings you into his world, and you can't find any faults in his work. Is that how he works on his magic to the readers? This really opens up my interest and eager to read his other books to know more about him. He seems is a mysterious author or has an unexplainable skill that attracts the readers to his world.

Simultaneously, if you are unimaginative or black and white is the only thing that appears in your world, his writing style will be frustrating for you. There is a lot of vague description, it can be symbolism or probably indicating something, or it may be not. It's up to the reader how to interpret it. Cabbage field appears from nowhere. Is that just a scenery description or a hint? A spider on an emergency exit. Is that related to the main character's life? Owl hooting. Is that a warning sign? You never know, or maybe the author just simply put it into the story without any reasons.

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: 1Q84 (1Q84 #1 - 3) by Haruki Murakami.

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