Let's be honest - not a lot happens in these 400+ pages that make up 1q84 book 1. Some things the characters say are repeated a few times, which is sl...moreLet's be honest - not a lot happens in these 400+ pages that make up 1q84 book 1. Some things the characters say are repeated a few times, which is slightly problematic as character building and exposition is about all that happens here.
But I give it four stars anyway. Part of that is due to Jacques Westerhoven, who is an excellent translator and whose additional notes were really interesting and helpful. I'm usually not a big fan of footnotes, but in this case, it totally worked.
Most of it is due to the characters. Aomame, Ayumi and the Old Lady are absolutely kickass. I absolutely loved reading about them and their lives. So, you're a virgin until 26? Who cares! And now you occasionally just want to have sex? That's totally fine! Yay for sexual freedom and no judging!
Fukaeri is also super interesting. I really like what Murakami does with dyslexia when it comes to her character: it's always nice to see that people don't equate dyslexia with dumbness. Many teachers seem to do this, with bad consequences for the students involved.. my cousin and niece have hated school because of this reason. True, Fukaeri (or should I say Eri?) doesn't really attend school either, but at least it's clear it's not her fault, as she's really clever. You go Eri, four for you Eri. Maybe school systems will be changed soon that they can deal with dyslexia and similar problems more efficiently in the future.
Of course the whole sect plotline is creepy and worrisome, and one that I don't necessarily care about so much, but in that this is just a typical Murakami book for me: characters > plot.
And my, the female characters in this book are all fantastic. Can't wait for book 2.(less)
I'm notoriously bad at finishing series. I tend to lose interest long before I finish reading them (even with trilogies), so I've pondered why I ended...moreI'm notoriously bad at finishing series. I tend to lose interest long before I finish reading them (even with trilogies), so I've pondered why I ended up finishing the Secrets Of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. The series is quite long, not particularly brilliantly written, nor is it groundbreaking. So why?
In the end, I think the books had a lovely charm to them. Scott incorporates many historical and mythological figures in the books, which may seem odd at first, but adds so much to the story. I can't say I was, at any point, a big fan of the Newman twins or the Flamels. For me, the side characters stole the show. Scathach was cool, William Shakespeare hilarious, I loved Billy The Kid for his optimism, Machiavelli was surprisingly nicely written. These side characters provided the laughs the main cast often couldn't produce. Seeing as the side characters got more and more screentime as the books progressed, I think that's one main reason for me finishing the series. Some people may think there were too many side characters, but I actually enjoyed all of them, and they all had some role to play, so I wasn't bothered by the amount of relevant side characters.
I said before, the books weren't particularly brilliantly written. I stand by that statement. There's nothing special about the writing. It was aimed at a ya (or younger) audience, which made these books quick, and relaxing reads. The plot itself never has a moment of peace, there's a ridiculous amount of events crammed into one week (that, thankfully, the characters themselves also point out). The result however, is that there's always something happening. Maybe too much when you think about it, but while reading, I always felt a twinge of excitement. Both of these things combined created what was for me the biggest plus about these books: they so easily takes your mind of things.. and also manage to infect you with a love for the historical and mythological, like mentioned before.
This last book in the series wasn't a particular masterpiece. If I had to compare it to something, I would say the 8th Harry Potter movie. This book is just fights fights fights and deaths deaths deaths (but unlike Harry Potter, here it takes place in two different worlds in two different times). Also like that movie, what happened *after* the fighting is over, is only quickly summarized in an epilogue. Only this epilogue felt rushed, and didn't finish things off neatly. It leaves you hanging a bit, which is a shame. I wouldn't have minded a few extra pages..!
So not the best ending the series could have had, and not the one I hoped for either. All the same, it was a fun ride, and I enjoyed reading it. For hestitant readers, book 1 is definitely my least favourite of the bunch, but if you can get past that, I think you will enjoy the rest of the series. After all, not every book needs to be a masterpiece, sometimes we all just want to sit back and relax. These books do just that.(less)
This little novel of Gaiman's lives up to the expectations. It is, in every sense, a true Neil Gaiman book: the world-building is definitely from his...moreThis little novel of Gaiman's lives up to the expectations. It is, in every sense, a true Neil Gaiman book: the world-building is definitely from his hand, his dry wit is obvious, and the combination of an amusing story with captivating quotes and life lessons are definitely Gaiman's trademark.
But my thoughts on the novel on the whole aren't as straightforward. It's because I somehow didn't connect with it as much as some of Gaiman's other works (most notably The Graveyard Book). I truly enjoyed it, but except for a few quotes, I don't think this effort of Gaiman's left a particularly lasting impression on me. And that's okay - it was still a fun read, and moving at times. There are true little gems in this book, most notably when it comes to describing the difference between childhood and adulthood, but also the ponderings on what it means to be human. Without a doubt, I've found what must be my favourite Gaiman-quote in this book:
"Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world."
Which, you know, is a good thing to remember sometimes.
So why, why did this story not leave an impression on me? I can only come up with the conclusion that the story felt too short, somehow. I never really bonded with it. I read it all within two to three hours, and that was just too short a time to spend with this book. There was too little tension in there, some things seemed to be solved too easily, too quickly.
But in the end, the story was amusing, there are some amazing quotes in this book, and it's without a doubt a solid new addition to Gaiman's bibliography. Definitely worth reading (it won't take that long anyway). It just won't be my favourite of the bunch.(less)
This book was so typically Murakami. That's the first thought I had upon finishing reading this novel. But what does that mean, how is it typically Mu...moreThis book was so typically Murakami. That's the first thought I had upon finishing reading this novel. But what does that mean, how is it typically Murakami? It's in the similarities of the characters, it's in the type of plot. Somehow Murakami recycles a lot, the constant emphasis on music, the disappearing wives or girlfriends. In many ways, his books are far too similar. And yet, and yet, none of his books become boring to read. At least, not to me.
This book was a sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase, which means that we once again become reacquianted with those gorgeous ears of his previous girlfriend's, and the Sheep Man makes another appearance again as well. But overall, this book definitely stands on his own, and is by far the most fun of Murakami's book that I've read. Any book that makes me laugh out loud on a bus is a good, fun book.
It was also full of interesting characters. Gotanda especially is one of Murakami's richer characters, I think, a highly talented guy who is trapped in the web of life. I thought Murakami caught him brilliantly. Yuki, a younger, remarkable girl was also fascinating to read about. Interesting female characters, Murakami has a certain rule book for them. And yet they're still interesting to read about.
Overall, the book was just a lot of fun. Despite all the oddness of everything that happens, there are some wise lessons you can take home from the book:
1) You need to keep dancing through life. 2) Everyone has a talent. The main character of this book was particularly good at making coffee, for instance. Basically: everyone has a talent. You just need to find yours. 3) Feeling guilt about things you should've done while someone was still alive is useless and insincere. 4) Clint Eastwood really, really should smile more in his movies.
What a mess. Interesting story idea, but poorly executed. There was no emotional depth to the story at all - throwing in tons of facts about the chara...moreWhat a mess. Interesting story idea, but poorly executed. There was no emotional depth to the story at all - throwing in tons of facts about the characters does not equal round characters either -, without knowledge of Russian fairytales most of this book will go over your head... and just the main plot development was lacking. A classic example of a story needing more showing rather than telling.
Shame, I really did like the premise, but that was about all there was to like.(less)
"De inhoud van deze 900 pagina's dikke roman is amper na te vertellen."
This is the opening of one of the Dutch reviews for this book: the content of t...more"De inhoud van deze 900 pagina's dikke roman is amper na te vertellen."
This is the opening of one of the Dutch reviews for this book: the content of this 900-page thick novel can barely be repeated. They are right. This book is, in many ways, all over the place. It talks of wars that are of no direct relevance to the main plot, we discover what happens to character that never even show up, and more of these things. This book is full of many things, yet its main plot seems a little undecided. For me, that was its main weakness. Where was this book going? What was the exact point? There doesn't really seem to be one, besides being a study in human psychology.
It's probably because this book consists of 3 different books: the first one was published in magazines, the second released shortly after. Book three wasn't written until long after that, as Murakami had no real intention of writing book three. And to be fair: book two breaks off at an annoying point, but it wouldn't have been an unusual breaking off point for Murakami. What happened to Kumiko, will Toru find her? You don't really know. He just got a new clue, and that's the end. Wham. Open ending.
Then book three happens, and you find out more, especially about some characters that were not so well portrayed in the first two books. Even so, the book doesn't give everything away. It's still a Murakami book, so to some extent, you're still wondering about what the hell happened when you've read the last page. Book three expands upon books one and two, but in the end doesn't give closure either. Murakami just takes you on this long long ride, asks many questions.. but neglects to give you many answers. So what just happened? What was the point?
I didn't really mind this (though one does wonder). It's because I liked the characters, with their occasionally odd nicknames. My favourite was Toru, our main character, who randomly decides to quit working because he no longer feels like it. Who goes to the bottom of a well to be able to think. He just closes himself off from the world: he gets some of the backlash, but he's still doing okay. In that sense I envied him. His life of just reading and cleaning seems very appealing to me right now. Maybe not forever (and I do think Toru will get a job again... eventually). But it's a phase I can relate to and that's why I liked Toru. With its secondary cast of eccentric characters, this book was quite a lot of fun. Another favourite was May Kasahara, the girl who did crazy things, thought about death and laughed at ducks. She had spunk and I loved her.
One last thing I have to say deals with editions. Apparently the English translation cut over 25.000 words from the original Japanese text. The translator of the Dutch version says most translations have been based on this cut version, apparently because the transition between books 2 and 3 was supposedly a bit stiff. I didn't really notice this while reading. True, there's quite a bit in this book that could be cut without one having problems to understand the plot. But even the details that aren't directly relevant, have some part to play. I can't understand why so much of the story had to be cut for the English translation. So basically, what I want to say: if you understand Dutch, read the Dutch version (or the Japanese version, of course). There's no need to miss out on what Murakami wanted you to read. I'm sure Jay Rubin meant well, but he's not the author, and as Murakami didn't change his revised edition of the Japanese version accordingly *, I think that really says enough.
* Murakami did change some things, but didn't go along with full 25.000 word cut, according to my translator.(less)
The Princess And The Pea is one of those fairytales that never really hit a chord with me. Naturally, fairytales were never meant to be realistic.. ye...moreThe Princess And The Pea is one of those fairytales that never really hit a chord with me. Naturally, fairytales were never meant to be realistic.. yet feeling a pea through 20 matresses? I thought the princess was spoiled and was therefore not a big fan of this particular story.
This retelling was a nice surprise for me. It took all the things I found unbelievable about the original story, and turned them around. Violet was an interesting character, and though I loved all the friendships she made, we didn't see what happened to these girls in the end. Also the romance isn't really.. mindblowing, and is nearly insta-love. The relationships therefore do leave a little to be desired, but then it as mostly Violet's story, so I can understand.
Traditionally, the baddies in the story are kind of very rottenly bad without a shed of moral greyness. But then it's a fairytale, so I don't know what else I expected.
Basically, accept the rules of the fairytale, squint away some things (e.g. self mutiliation and aforementioned issues) and then the book is an enjoyable ride. It fills in extra backstories for some of the characters, and it has the nice fairytale feel. It's a nice way to spend your afternoon, and it tells you that every girl can be a princess.(less)