Review: 1Q84


By Haruki Murakami
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307593313, October 2011, 944pp.)

The Short of It:

1Q84 is a literary mash-up of epic proportions. The artistry of the writing will impress Murakami’s die-hard fans, but I suspect that he will gain a whole new following with this one.

The Rest of It:

On a busy expressway, Aomame steps out of a cab and slips into a parallel world. Initially, the fact that she’s entered another world goes unnoticed by her, but slowly she begins to realize that although this new world is similar to what she had before, there is something about this new world that she can’t quite put her finger on. At times, she sees two moons in the sky and wonders if she is the only one who can see them. What do they mean? She calls this world, 1Q84…the Q, representing a question mark. It is a “world that bears a question.”

Meanwhile, Tengo has been asked by his editor to ghostwrite a work titled, Air Chrysalis. The work was written by a young girl named Fuka-Eri and although the story is impressive, the technical aspects of the writing are less so. An aspiring writer himself, Tengo finds himself somewhat obsessed with the young girl and the two form a very unusual friendship.

As the chapters alternate between Tengo and Aomame, you realize that at some point these characters will meet. In fact, they have already met once, as children. An encounter that Tengo and Aomame have never forgotten and one that is played out repeatedly throughout the book.  Neither of them can explain their inexplicable desire to find one another because the fact that they are drawn to each other is odd enough. As they make their way towards each other, they encounter obstacles and unforgettable characters along the way.

If you noticed that ‘1Q84’ resembles the title of another landmark novel, ‘1984’ then you would be correct in thinking that there is a connection between the two.  This novel is Murakami’s ode to Orwell. In 1984, you have Big Brother and in this novel, the Little People. The two books share similar themes but the feel of each is quite different. In many ways, Murakami is more matter-of-fact with his storytelling. For the most part, his characters say what they mean. They are open books. The reader is always clued in to what they are feeling at any point in time. However, the meaning behind what they are feeling, is often left open for interpretation. This is one of the reasons I love Murakami. His ability to put it all out there, trusting that as a reader, you will come to your own conclusions is a tough thing to do. The confidence that he has in his readers is something I have felt from day one. It’s no wonder that his fandom continues to grow daily.

I’ve read five books by Murakami and if I were to compare this one to them, I’d have to say that this one is tamer. There is less sex, less strangeness, but the themes dealing with identity, belonging, violence against women, religion, re-birth, Oedipus complex…are all here, but handled in a quiet way. It’s not nearly as bizarre as some of his other novels. No talking cats, for instance. But it is most definitely a Murakami in the handling of the characters. The characters are often likable, and that is also the case here. However, they are not predictable. As you read the novel, you begin to get a feel for them, but you can never truly know them because they are very complex. Murakami’s characters are never flat. They are constantly evolving and that is something I look forward to every time I open a Murakami book. The other thing that is pure Murakami,  is that there are no “throw away” characters. They all have a purpose, no matter how silly or trivial they may seem at first glance.

I was very sad when I turned the last page. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to crawl inside the book and become one with it.  It was wonderful and thought-provoking on so many levels. It’s totally accessible even at its 944 pages and there is never a dull moment. I was worried about the translation, as it took two translators to get the job done, but I looked for style differences and they were none to speak of. If they existed, I never noticed them. With its “love story in a parallel world” premise, there is something here for everyone.  I honestly don’t think it even matters if you haven’t read any of his other books. This one might even be a good book to start with because it eases you into his writing style and if you like books that question reality as we know it, then there is no doubt in my mind that you will enjoy this one.

That said, I could write pages and pages on why you should read it, but I’d rather you just trust me in saying that if you do read it, you won’t be sorry.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

41 thoughts on “Review: 1Q84”

  1. Ah, Ti, you make me want to embrace him and fall in love. I have only read his memoir, which was totally engrossing and inspiring. I have two of his books at my fingertips. I just have to get over my fear of him and read them.

    1. I can see why so many are intimidated at the idea of reading anything by him, but it’s not like reading Moby Dick (painful) it’s like slowly unwrapping a much wanted package. You read slowly because it requires.. I should say… begs you to ponder the concepts contained within but it’s never HARD reading. There is no wrong way to interpret his work either. Give it a try!!


  2. Wow…Ti…really…you have an amazing talent for clarifying a novel…for getting to its heart. I feel always as though we are having a coffee somewhere and you are explaining him to me and allowing me to think about how soon I will get to this book.

    1. That is what I envision when I write stuff… me, sitting across from someone in a cafe somewhere. Just chatting about books and stuff. So WHEN will you read the book? Hmm?


  3. I have been waiting for this review, and I was riveted by the way you explained the plot and your opinions on it. I have been really curious about this book since hearing that it was coming out, and would be really excited to read it, but since I am a Murakami newbie, and you are an expert, do you think this should be the first one of his that I try? I am looking to explore Murakami, and would love to know which one was your favorite.

    By the way, this review was fabulous! It totally got me all excited to try this book, even though it is a doorstopper!

    1. Normally I would say to start with one of his others, but now that I’ve finished 1Q84, I can honestly say that it would be a great first book. Don’t let the size intimidate you. It’s one of the most accessible of his books that I’ve read thus far. His other books require a bit more interpretation. This one reads easily, if that makes sense.


  4. Ti, I love your review! It is spot on and makes me fall more in love with Murakami. His work is just excellent and I can only hope that after reading your excellent post that more and more people fall in love with his words 😉 Actually reading your post put a smile on a face because it made me think about Tengo and Aomame again and I truly enjoyed getting to know them. I haven’t written a post on 1Q84 and I’m not sure if I will (or can). I’m just glad that I read this book – it was one of my favorite reading experiences of 2011.

    1. I got all warm and fuzzy just reading your comment. I know we didn’t discuss it as we were reading it, but I knew you were reading it too and it was like I had a reading buddy. I feel so lucky to have experienced this book before the year ends. It was just a lovely way to spend a few weeks. I can’t imagine how he is ever going to top this one but I’m sure he will.


  5. I’m having to physically restrain myself from grabbing this book off my TBR shelf and ignoring the 100 or so books that I should technically read first. I have never been so excited to read an author for the first time!

  6. My first Murakami novel was After Dark, a short novel that got me hooked on this writer. I enjoyed 1Q84 and was challenged by it. I am now planning to read Norwegian Wood, which many have claimed was his best book.

  7. Having read about your love for this author, I was curious to see how you would like 1Q84. Although the size is certainly daunting, you’ve piqued my curiosity. I’m not sure I’d purchase a hardcover but I might consider it when the softback version comes out.

    1. When I used my B&N member card the hardback was only $16 or something. Not bad. I can’t wait to see what they’ll put on the PB version.


  8. This was a very well thought out and written review. I was thinking as I read the review that maybe I would make this my first Murakami… based on what you said I’m thinking that might still be a good idea, but I’m not good at getting through long books!!!

    1. Even with its 944 pages I still wanted more. Don’t let the size intimidate you. I totally forgot to mention the Spotify music list that Knopf out together. I listened to it while reading the book. So awesome.

  9. I am looking forward to reading this one next year! Need to get my copy ready, so that the first book I read when I’m back is this one!

  10. I’ll come back after reading the book Ti, but I’m glad you like it so much. Must be a longggg… journey, you will be dreaming about Aomame and Tengo for a long while.

  11. Yours is the first review I’ve read of it … I was so curious .I’m glad that you, a die-hard fan, enjoyed the book. I’m going to start reading his fiction next year … maybe I’ll start the new year with one of his books!!!

  12. This is such a wonderful review, Ti! You’ve made me very excited about readinmg this book. I’m not quite ready to start it yet – I need to get my health back on track and a few other things because I want to sit down with 1Q84 and enjoy it. Also, I look at the book and I want to read it, now!, but I also want to wait because once I start reading it, it’s only a matter of time until I’m finished reading it!
    I didn’t know about the connection to Orwell’s 1984 mostly because I have avoided reading reviews and articles about the book.
    I’m so happy you enjoyed this book as much as you did. You review is fantastic, Ti! I really enjoyed it.

  13. You have convinced me to give this author a try Ti! Wow, your review mesmerized me and intrigued me. I have not read 1984, is that something that will deter from the meaning of the book? I plan to read this as newbie and make it my first book to read by this author. I love the idea of the Spotify music list to listen to while reading the book…is that listed in the book or on Spotify? I have the book on reserve at the library and look forward to reading it in the new year. I love reading chunkster books in the winter months here, hunkered down in a snowstorm with a roaring fire and hot cocoa…I can dream!

  14. Hi there, found your blog while looking for reviews on Murakami. You have a great talent for reviews, you keep them short, but you say everything that has to be said. I’m a huge Murakami fan, I’ve read everything he wrote (some of it twice), and am now re-reading “Dance dance dance”, for lack of a better book on my shelf. I actually think that 1Q84, though his latest, is the best gateway into his (literary) universe, if one would be patient enough to get through it.

    Keep up the good work.

    Cheers from Brazil.

  15. I know this is an ancient post, but I just started reading this since getting the book for Xmas. It was a scary thing to think of starting since it came out, but I can’t put it down.

    I don’t know how it took me two years to pick up the book, especially because he does amazing work. I can’t wait for his new one to be translated to English.

    1. On Facebook, his reps said the new book would be available in the US in August. I believe it was August. Might have been April. My mind these days cannot remember the details.


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