Its hard to gather ones thoughts after reading a Murakami novel. His writing tends to challenge, bemuse, enlighten, and entertain seemingly in equal measure. If you start with any preconceptions, you can quite safely kiss goodbye to them by the end of the book. There are frequent eyebrow raising moments and sentences that will result in audible exclamation. His novels can best be described as an “experience” drawing you into another world for the duration. 1Q84 does this by a process of deep immersion.
In the book you follow the two, nearly parallel, narratives of Tengo and Aomame. Neither of these characters has a conventional lifestyle. Tengo is a teacher in a cram school who has a friend in publishing; Komatsu. Komatsu introduces Tengo to a text he has acquired. This book has been written by a 17 year old girl. The novella in question “Air Chrysalis”, has elements of science fiction as well as subverted fairy story. Komatsu coerces Tengo into making the text presentable and the stories of Tengo and the author start to intertwine with interesting consequences. It would also appear that Tengo leads a fairly loveless life aside from an affair he is having with an older married woman. He holds onto a single experience as a 10 year old where a brief physical meeting with a schoolgirl provides a point from which he never really moves. In this we can see that Murakami allows a great deal to revolve around a very small point in time. Time is extremely important in this book as the world of 1Q84 is not 1984 and never will be.
On the other hand, Aomame has a long standing association with a dowager in the Tokyo region who contracts her to provide a very unique service. Her life becomes caught up with that of Tengo and the world of 1Q84. There is much within her past, particularly with her upbringing within the Jehovahs Witness movement, which carries forward to play itself out within the story of 1Q84. Murakami explores belief and faith in a low level way and it would be tempting to write off a good portion of this book as a predictable look at religious cults. This could not be further from the truth. He uses the religious motifs to provide part of the skeleton of the world of 1Q84.
There is much else here. Murakami has a unique ability to understand what it means to be human and how the feelings that we experience affect our actions and ultimately how they affect others and then possibly how they affect our world. Its this upscaling of the seemingly insignificant which is at the heart of this story.
Murakami has an interesting literary construct where he quite literally drops a fact into the stream which can only possibly make sense once more of the flow of the story has passed. You know this to be the case and it makes perfect sense in the context but you have no way of knowing its ultimate position until you have moved much further on in the book. A case in point is the story of Tsubasa, where we are confronted with some of the most outlandish and fantastical elements of this whole story but have not actually got quite enough of the world –view to make any kind of sense; if indeed you manage this at any point.
This book makes for very addictive reading and I ordered book3 before finishing books 1 and 2.