They say that all good things must come to an end and, although I don’t disagree with the saying (after all, all things come to an end don’t they, so why should good things be any different?), I don’t love it. In fact, I don’t even like it. So, when the best book I’ve read in a long time came to an end a few days ago I was less than impressed and have been left nursing a horrible emptiness. Yes, I know, I probably should have realised at page 931 of 932 that the book was nearing its conclusion, and I probably did have a bit of an inkling (!), but it still didn’t prepare me for the post biblio-tic stress that I’ve been experiencing. Night sweats (I’ve been falling asleep in front of the heater now that I don’t have a thrilling read), heart palpitations (what to read next?!?), flashbacks – I’ve experienced it all – and all because of a book. I shouldn’t say a book because it isn’t just any book that I’m talking about. It’s Murakami’s latest “doorstop” of a masterpiece (it really has been described as a doorstop and probably fairly so – it’s big) 1Q84 (pronounced “nineteen eighty four”).
For those of you who follow the blog you’ll know that I started this book just before Christmas last year. I pounced on the opportunity to buy a copy as soon as it came to Australia and thought I’d have it finished in a week. Well, life got in the way and it’s taken me six odd months to get through it. Let me assure you though, it’s been six odd months of sheer reading pleasure.
As a Murakami fan I knew what to expect stylistically, however, I did have my reservations about the book’s length. Surely he could have culled even 100 of those 900 odd pages? Was I going to keep interested for 900 pages – wouldn’t it be like reading the bible? Maybe it would ruin my love for Murakami… it only took a few pages of the 900 page book, however, for me to realise that all my anxieties were unfounded. I was hooked from page one and stayed that way throughout.
So what’s this masterpiece about exactly? For those of you who read Murakami, you’ll know that at the best of times, that’s a difficult question to answer. In the spirit of sharing though, I’ll give it my best shot. Part mystery, part drama, part love story, 1Q84 truly is three books rolled into one. At its core, it’s the story of two people destined to be together and the practical and fantastical reasons that keep them apart. This book is very much a book about pursuit and journey; the pursuit of love and the journey one undergoes to find it. The beauty of Murakami’s book, however, lies in his choice to favour the journey over the end result. As a reader, you can’t help but feel that every twist and turn that the plot takes is very much essential to the final fate of Tengo and Aomame.
In Murakami’s signature style, this book is beautifully written. The prose is clean, unadorned and honest and the plot truly enthralling. So much so that it leaves you wanting more, more, MORE; perhaps because the writing is so silken and lush, more likely because Murakami leaves several loose narrative threads dangling. However, these in no way undermine how ‘complete’ the book feels from a narrative perspective. Choosing to begin his book with the moon and end it with the rising sun, Murakami sends a strong message to his readers that Tengo and Aomame are exactly where they are supposed to be and that the story that he set out to tell has, well and truly, been told.
It’s obvious to a Murakami fan that this book is, in part, an exercise in self indulgence by the author, to which I say, good on him. Yes, it’s lengthy but was each and every word of the novel necessary? I think it was and am confident Murakami would argue similarly. If you haven’t read Murakami before, I probably wouldn’t start with this (try Kafka or Norwegian Wood). For the Murakami fans out there, however, if you are yet to get yourselves a copy of 1Q84, do it now; this afternoon; tonight. You won’t be disappointed.
So what of this “wee announcement” that I mentioned in the post’s title? My friend Kat and I (yes, another Kat – who would have thought?) have started a book club. A pretty standard one at that. One month she picks the book, the next month I do. This month it’s Living Oprah (Robyn Okrant) and yes, you will most definitely hear about it on the blog. The books may not all be of the ‘literary kind’… some will be silly… some fun – but that’s what a book club is, no? So, if anyone would like to join us, we start reading on the first of the month and our thoughts / ideas / comments will be up on the 31st (or 30th, or 28th, or 29th depending on the month). If you’ve read the book, feel free to comment, if you haven’t, feel free to read along / buy a copy based on our praise or otherwise.
’til next time… here’s to marvellous Murakami and the joy of reading with friends.
Happy Saturday xx