You can love a book for its story or the way that it is told, the characters or plot intricacies or for the feeling that settles into your gut as a post-reading experience. And that is what 1Q84 did for me. It crawled into my skin, made home within and gave me this unsettling feeling, which, try as I might could not dust off.
It is evident from the title of the book, that it has got to do something with George Orwell’s 1984. While 1984 thrives on a futuristic, post war dystopian world, Murakami plays with parallel universes. His female protagonist, Aomame slips into an other worldly Tokyo that has many eerie situations to offer. Aomame struggles, and I struggled with her to make sense of her surroundings. It becomes even more complicated with the arrival of the male protagonist, Tengo who has a penchant for writing.
Aomame, who is secretly a moral assassin and Tengo, who treads a dangerous path of ghost writing for a dyslexic teen girl are both thrown into a sequence of sinister incidents that they must first recognize, understand and then escape. What is remarkable is how the author builds a painfully slow connection between Aomame and Tengo. It was as though someone gave me the daunting task of listening to a chalk scrape against a blackboard in slow motion. Having said that, I certainly don’t mean that the story is boring. It is interesting in an abnormal way.
Although at the base of it all, it can be termed as a love story, calling it that would be a description taken out of context. Aomame and Tengo who are worlds apart, and not metaphorically in that, encounter some if the finest book characters who have distinct personalities supported by great past stories. The book becomes even more gripping due to its non-linear format where the reader travels back and forth in time with the reminiscing characters.
I was most fascinated with ‘the Little People’, who serve as yet another disturbingly magical concept. At the centre of the plot, lies a religious cult group, that is trying to erase the evidences of a crime they may or may not have committed. In the midst of all this brooding environment, Aomame and Tengo must figure where they stand – both individually and together. The manner in which Murakami manages to weave in some great insights to life and philosophical views, is only proof of what a fantastic writer he is!
As for the ending, I wasn’t particularly impressed by it. I felt like I skipped twenty pages just before the climax. The struggle and tension that slowly but surely builds through the book, just collapses towards the end without a final edge. I felt that the ending was a bit too easy, too convenient. But then again, that goes well with the general unsettling feeling that the book provides.
All in all, the tale is gripping and won’t let you be on cloud nine for most days while you’re at it and that is exactly why you should volunteer for the experience. In a nutshell, please read 1Q84!