vintagewitch (vintagewitch) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

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Book #4: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

I DID IT! I am posting to triumphantly announce that I have FINISHED READING 1Q84.

I was absolutely taken in by the storytelling technique, the vision, and the voice of this work. I started reading it shortly after finishing nanowrimo, which was a mistake. It made me feel very ... small ... as someone working on their own writing. The atmosphere he was able to create, within the first page of the novel, made me feel like I was dreaming as I was reading.

This is book #4 finished of the year, and it has definitely taken a ton of my time. At 1,157 pages, it's an absolute behemoth. I'm very happy I read all the way to the end, but it was definitely difficult to get through. I'm very much a person that reads more than one book at once, and having one take me this long (six months) to finish definitely left me feeling antsy that I couldn't spend enough time with my other books.

I've been getting very interested in Japanese literature - in many forms - lately. My partner and I recently watched Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood" (based on Macbeth, set in medieval Japan, with Noh theatre styling), I've been delving into Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and have been very curious about Japanese mythology and folklore. This novel was also set in the year 1984 in Japan - a year when Japan was on top of the world in terms of economic success, but at the same time definitely maintaining its identity as a non-western country.

Murakami writes from a very different perspective. He definitely brings in this historic context - I don't think it's purely a riff on Orwell's 1984 that he chose the year 1984 for the setting of this work. I read a New York Times article where the author said he prepared for his trip to Japan by reading Murakami - and found that Japan was nothing like the Westernized literature Murakami writes. He has "always considered himself an outsider in his own country", and his style is a mixture of the hard-boiled detective and wonderland; a mix of science fiction and noir. And all of these aspects of his writing seem to be very much inspired by Western literature. I had fun catching his allusions - and I'm sure there's a lot I missed.

I think what really struck me about this novel was the pacing. Murakami dwells on details and a slow pacing style that not many authors will. He dwells on detail, which really sucks you in to the whole scene - you feel like you're a part of it. But once I hit page 750 or so, it seemed really self-indulgent.

The story itself is really hard to describe to others. Someone had initially described it to me as dystopian fiction, but ... it doesn't seem like the Sakigake conspiracy is enough to really call it a dystopia. It's very dangerous for the characters, but ultimately I missed the danger to broader society that I typically associate with dystopia. But I really appreciate the blending of genres that Murakami did in this work - and even though i came to it wanted a dystopia, I left happy to have read such a grand, nuanced work.

However, I do think this could have been a much shorter book. It makes sense that it was three books originally, but it just felt like there was so much description and dense detail that was ... ultimately not necessary. Definitely made me feel like I was a part of the book, but it also really drew it out. Large portions of the book take place while the characters are waiting, or staying in one place, and ... it felt a little self-indulgent.

BUT I'm very glad I read it. I feel like, if anything, 1Q84 really opened me up to new kinds of literature to explore. I'm really intrigued by Japanese mythology now, and may try to find an anthology.

Next on my reading list:

Wuthering Heights (for book club - delightful)
The Way of Herbs
The Red Tree

Now, on to more books!
Tags: book review, japanese novel, recommended book

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