First Sentence: The taxi’s radio was tuned to a classical FM broadcast.
Right from the very first sentence of this book it is obvious we are returning to classic Murakami. From the first mention of that classical FM broadcast right through to the last page, this book is a dream. The two main characters are Aomame (pronounced ‘Ah-Oh-Mah-Meh’) meaning ‘green peas’ who has one very large ear and Tengo, a man with cauliflower ears. The basic plot of the book, I say basic as there is layer upon layer on offer here, revolves around these two characters who once held hands in school at ten years of age. Tengo is now a struggling writer and Aomame is a hired assassin. As Tengo gets sucked into literary fraud (he ghostwrites a book for the precocious Fuka-Eri, called Air Chrysalis), Aomame gets sucked into the sinister world of religious cults and child abuse (namely the cult Sakigake, and Tsubasa, a ten-year old girl who is raped by The Leader). All the while they are each seeking the other. It soon becomes clear to Aomame however that she is no longer even living in the real 1984 (the year the book is set, and yes, the book 1984 is mentioned throughout) but rather 1Q84 as she dubs it. In 1Q84 (the Q representing a question mark. Appropriate as this book is full of questions, and not many answers!) there are two moons, one smaller than the other, and everything seems to be that little bit different. Or as Aomame puts it, “the bottle and the cap don’t fit.” As in all great Murakami novels everything is slightly skewed from the get go and things certainly become no clearer as the book progresses. But this surreal element is what Murakami does best. Komatsu (Tengo’s agent) says it best when he says:
There also has to be that ‘special something’, an indefinable quality, something I can’t quite put my finger on. That’s the part of fiction I value more highly than anything else. Stuff I understand perfectly doesn’t interest me. Obviously. It’s very simple.
Another thing Murakami does well in his books is music, and from the first sentence, when we are listening to Janáček’s Sinfonietta music pervades this book. Bach is also mentioned several times, and both Tengo and Fuka-Eri are fond of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Absolutely every little thing in this book screams classic Murakami and if you are a fan of his writing you won’t be disappointed. If you’re not a fan of his writing, just read this book, you will be. It may not resolve all the questions it puts in your head but I think one ‘reviewer’ of Air Chrysalis in the book sums it up perfectly:
As a story, the work is put together in an exceptionally interesting way and it carries the reader along to the very end, but when it comes to the question of what is an air chrysalis, or who are the Little People, we are left in a pool of mysterious question marks.
1Q84 also leaves us in a pool of mysterious question marks, but what a glorious pool to dwell (and possibly drown) in. Roll on 1Q84 Book 3…
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