Sean's Reviews > 1Q84

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
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's review
Dec 12, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2011, post-modern, sci-fi, japanese-literature
Read from November 07 to December 06, 2011


I must confess that this is my first bold step into the world of Haruki Murakami. After roughly four weeks, my journey through the world of 1Q84 has come to end. I was unfamiliar with this author until this massive yet stunningly beautiful book showed up on the new releases table at the bookstore. I then learned that this author (famous in Japan but relatively unknown in America) titled this book as play on George Orwell’s 1984 (one of my favorites). So I decided to brave the 984 pages.


This fantasy/romance story takes place in Tokyo in the year 1984 and follows two protagonists, Tengo and Aomame, and their quest to find each other. The only way they can do so is by entering the surreal world of 1Q84. As they both realize that they are not in same world as before, they then begin to ponder the peculiarities of the new world and wonder if they, in fact, are the only ones that are aware that they are in 1Q84.


As I began reading the first hundred pages or so, I was extremely curious about where this story was going. Two people, lost in this alternate reality, not really sure what the future holds with them. With much repetition in the story and lots of detail about every action, I thought that it took a lot of time to watch anything happen in the story. After some time, I then became skeptical whether this story would really hold my interest for another 700 pages. I even considered giving up at one point. I decided that since I had already finished 200 pages, I just had to continue.


The story switched back and forth between these two protagonists and we eventually learn that each character lives very similar lives. They are both caught up in immoral circumstances and question their actions. Other characters enter the story and all play a critical role in the decisions that the protagonists choose to make. By book 2, the underlying mystery of the story is revealed and the reader eventually learns the motives among all of the characters in the story.


As I was well into book 2, this book became very interesting. I began to understand the many methods of duality Murakami uses in the story: Tengo/Aomame, 1984/1Q84, talk/solitude, birth/death, large moon/little moon, etc. As the mystery of the book is revealed, I also realized that the underlying mystery really isn’t what this book is about. I deduced that this book is really an exploration of many existential themes of human existence and duality.


At the very center of this story is the theme of loneliness and longing. Other themes explored are parent/child relationships, sexual promiscuity, adultery, fraud, morality, religion, violence, and childhood nostalgia. All of these themes are concocted with simple yet beautiful prose. As a result, Murakami has created a great story that explored much of the dark side to human nature.

Sean and 1Q84

It is unclear to me how personal this novel really is to Haruki Marukami. Whether or not these themes are explored based on his personal experience, I could not determine. Nevertheless, Murakami has crafted a complex book that will leave me tossing around many of these themes in my head. Overall, I enjoyed 1Q84 and believe that my time reading this huge 984 page opus was never irretrievably lost.
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Reading Progress

10.0% "I am enjoying it so far. However, this is going to take awhile to finish. Work is the curse of the "reading" class."
40.0% "Finished Book 1. At page 400 and I feel like we're still just getting started."
70.0% 4 comments
80.0% "I am on book 3."
02/04 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-33)

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message 33: by Sean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sean The length looks intimidating but I am up for the challenge.

Aloha Go, Sean, go!

message 31: by Sean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sean Thanks, Aloha. I am impressed with how quickly you read this. Unfortunately, I don't really have the time right now to read the book every day. I have about 150 pages to go so the finish line is in my sight.

message 30: by TK421 (new) - added it

TK421 I am looking forward to what you have to say.

message 29: by Kay (new) - added it

Kay Interesting. I have seen a lot of this book around, but I never really understood what it's about. Definitely should give this one a shot.

message 28: by Sean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sean Kay, this was a really long book. People either love it or think its about 600 pages too long.

message 27: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Nice insights. I also liked the format of your review.

In case you can't stop thinking about it, seek out the discussion group.

message 26: by Sean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sean Thanks, Ian. I will check it out.

Aloha I've never heard of "magical realism" before Murakami. It's really interesting to see how he depicts magical realism. It fits in with his wanting to portray the world, any world, as illusory yet intense in its realism. I'm forming some ideas about his detailing of the torture of a Japanese soldier The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I'm only about 1/4 into the book, so I need to read more to get a more accurate take on it.

message 24: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Is it illusory realism or realistic illusion or something else altogether?

Aloha I would say realistic illusion, since he did mention that the world is illusory, but couched in our belief that it is very real and unchangeable. It's actually very Eastern in philosophy in that the world is illusory because it is changeable and therefore not permanent. People take it to mean that things are not real in terms of our interaction with it. But that's not true. It's very real in how it affects us and how we feel, but what it is is ultimately illusory, a fantasy. That's why there can be so many sides of a story, so many rules, dystopias, utopias, depending on the illusory world we set up for ourselves and what we believe. There's a more metaphysical meaning to illusion, which people who aren't versed in the Eastern philosophy think that it means rejecting the world as fantasy, non-substantive. That's why in 1Q84, it was stressed that our pain is very real. We can get hurt and be killed.

message 22: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I think it probably gives shadows equal status as well. Hence, Little People. Possibly running around in our head. Or on the grey paper pages. Oops, there goes one now.

Aloha Yup. Murakami gives a blend of varying philosophic thought and references.

message 20: by Sean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sean I have noticed I have been looking up at the moon much more often now.

Aloha LOL! I'm looking at the bottom of the well, now.

message 18: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Aloha, get out of that well right now. It's a lovely sunny day and you should be outside playing with your friends.

message 17: by mark (new)

mark monday great job on this review, Sean. i really like how you structured this.

message 16: by Sean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sean Thanks, Mark. I decided to have fun with it and format it the way the book is.

message 15: by s.penkevich (new) - added it

s.penkevich Great review, I really dig the form to it. I need to read this one soon.

message 14: by Sean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sean Thanks, S. Once you read 1Q84, the form of my review will look familiar.

message 13: by s.penkevich (new) - added it

s.penkevich Ha awesome. I've only read a few Murakami but I need to read more. His work is always quite unique.

Yeznik Mikayelyan Love the book so much, and also the review Sean has made. ;-)

message 11: by Sean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sean Yeznik wrote: "Love the book so much, and also the review Sean has made. ;-)"

Thanks, yeznik!

Yeznik Mikayelyan Is this your favorite book of Murakami?

Sean I've only read wind up bird and Norwegian wood. This is my first so it stuck with me the most.

Yeznik Mikayelyan Sean wrote: "I've only read wind up bird and Norwegian wood. This is my first so it stuck with me the most."

I think you should also read Kafka on the Shore, quite a good one.

Toru Junior Hi. I'm japanese. For long-term Murakami fans, length doesnt matter. If you are interested, you should read hardboiled wonderland. It is his first interwoven style.

Yeznik Mikayelyan @Toru i wanna thank all the Japanese nation for so many talents, love u guys.

Cayla Wilson This isn't the book that I would tell someone to get into reading murakami. He is NOT an easy read but a beautifully complex writer

Katie Wedell Enjoyed the book even though it was slow going at times.
Really enjoyed your review. It helped me make sense of some of my own thoughts about my the novel.

message 3: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El Oooh, I like your question about how personal this book is to Murakami.

Michael Nguyen I'm a little baffled by the reviews that state this shouldn't be the first Murakami for a new reader, but I disagree, with what I've read so far. It is an incredibly easy read, very vivid and yes, magical. I was definitely afraid of its size, but I check every day how many pages I've turned, shocked to see it go by so quickly. I usually read four or five books at a time, but I've dropped the rest just to focus on this engrossing read. Indeed, that tidbit on his biography here of his writing being "easily accessible, yet profoundly complex" rings true.

I would say to a new Murakami reader, try this one first. If I'm correct, this would make reading his other novels better. Expand the Murakami experience, not collapse it.

message 1: by Rin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rin Album i guess everyone who read 1Q48 is not the same after finishing the books. :)

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