Summary and book reviews of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1Q84
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2011,
    944 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2013,
    1184 pages.

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Book Summary

The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver's enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 - "Q is for 'question mark.' A world that bears a question." Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame's and Tengo's narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell's - 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami's most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

Chapter 1
Aomame
DON'T LET APPEARANCES FOOL YOU

The taxi's radio was tuned to a classical FM broadcast. Janaìcek's Sinfonietta - probably not the ideal music to hear in a taxi caught in traffic. The middle-aged driver didn't seem to be listening very closely, either. With his mouth clamped shut, he stared straight ahead at the endless line of cars stretching out on the elevated expressway, like a veteran fisherman standing in the bow of his boat, reading the ominous confluence of two currents. Aomame settled into the broad back seat, closed her eyes, and listened to the music.

How many people could recognize Janaìcek's Sinfonietta after hearing just the first few bars? Probably somewhere between "very few" and "almost none." But for some reason, Aomame was one of the few who could.

Janaìcek composed his little symphony in 1926. He originally wrote the opening as a fanfare for a gymnastics festival. Aomame imagined 1926 Czechoslovakia: The First World War ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. 1Q84 is a vast and intricate novel. What are the pleasures of reading such a long work, of staying with the same characters over such a long period of time?


  2. Murakami has said he is a fan of the mystery writer Elmore Leonard. What elements of the mystery genre does 1Q84 employ? How does Murakami keep readers guessing about what will happen next? What are some of the book's most surprising moments?


  3. Why would Murakami choose to set his story in 1984, the year that would serve as the title for George Orwell's famous novel about the dangers of Big Brother?


  4. The taxi driver in Chapter 1 warns Aomame that things are not what they seem, but he also tells her: "Don't let appearances fool you. There's always only one reality" (p. 9). ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

If you've tried Murakami before and haven't liked his work, you probably won't like this one either. First, it certainly falls squarely in the magical realism genre, and that in itself is a turn-off for many. This is one book that will frustrate those who want everything to make sense and to be neatly wrapped up by its conclusion; it must be approached with abandon, and readers will need to resign themselves to not over think it. But Murakami fans will be absolutely delighted with 1Q84, and I suspect that those readers new to the author who appreciate non-traditional stories and who have the patience to plow through the slow sections will put it at the top of their all-time favorites list. The plot is so unusual, so unlike most of what is currently hitting the shelves that many will ultimately find the novel a joy - and one that will linger in the mind long after the final page is turned.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews
The Washington Post

There's no question about the sheer enjoyability of this gigantic novel, both as an eerie thriller and as a moving love story… I read the book in three days and have been thinking about it ever since.

The Japanese Times

Murakami's fiction has grown increasingly relevant to our understanding of the world today, and this time his craft is more refined than ever... This novel - mired in death and fetish, leavened with humor - may become a mandatory read for anyone trying to get to grips with contemporary Japanese culture.

Kirkus Reviews

'Things are not what they seem.' If Murakami's ambitious, sprawling and thoroughly stunning new novel had a tagline, that would be it... Orwellian dystopia, sci-fi, the modern world (terrorism, drugs, apathy, pop novels) - all blend in this dreamlike, strange and wholly unforgettable epic.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 1Q84 goes further than any Murakami novel so far, and perhaps further than any novel before it, toward exposing the delicacy of the membranes that separate love from chance encounters, the kind from the wicked, and reality from what people living in the pent-up modern world dream about when they go to sleep under an alien moon.

Reader Reviews
SG Griffith

Mixed emotions
This is a fascinating book, with surprising and original elements that appear more surrealistically than magically. Two main characters walk their paths through these images, while trying to find a place in shifting realities. Like the Wind-Up Bird ...   Read More

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Leoš Janáček

Most of Haruki Murakami's novels reference Western music, and 1Q84 is no exception. Czech composer Leoš Janáček's symphonic poem Sinfonietta features prominently throughout.

Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was born in Hukvaldy, Moravia, in what was once known as the Austrian Empire. He is considered one of the early Czech nationalist composers, following in the footsteps of Bedřich Smetana and Antonin Dvořák (with whom he was close friends).

Leos JanacekMost of his work has its roots in Slavic folk music, although his style is celebrated as highly original. His first compositions were choral, and he is known primarily for his vocal works, including nine operas. Jenůfa (1904), his most celebrated opus...

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