800 pages is my mental limit for carelessly picking up a book and diving in. If a book exceeds that limit, it takes a little more procrastination and a lot more hemming and hawing over whether the novel is worth the effort. Let’s just say, I own War and Peace, but I have yet to pick it up.
But, contrary to my nature, I had absolutely no reservations about 1Q84, and enthusiastically bought the 1157-page beast of a novel after having just finished Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
I was enchanted by Murakami’s elegant prose. I devoured The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and yearned for more, and the prospect of 1157 more pages seemed absolutely delightful. Not to mention, critical praise decorated the cover and the beginning inside pages of 1Q84, assuring me that experts of literature had a fulfilling experience with the novel, and I certainly would too. It was an enjoyable book, but I am torn as to how to rate it. There were things I loved about it, and definitely things I could have done without.
I adore Haruki Murakami’s prose. It’s clean, simple, and yet sophisticated. In 1Q84, Murakami writes this lovely passage:
“It was a windless night. The kind of clouds that watercolor artists like lingered faintly in the sky, a test of the artist’s delicate brushstrokes.”
It seems so fitting that Murakami would use watercolors as an analogy, when his own language brings to mind the simplicity and sophistication of a very skilled watercolor artist. The technique seems deceivingly easy and fluid, yet underneath lies skill, depth, and beauty that cannot easily be obtained with such seeming effortlessness.
I definitely enjoyed the strange and magical plot of this novel. Ordinary incidents trigger the two protagonists’ transition into a new world under the sway of Little People and a religious cult. They are then pulled together by these circumstances into parallel stories linked by their connection and love for one another, even though they have not seen each other since they were children.
In addition, I found the passages of the novel dealing with family to be quite profound and lovely. The complicated relationships between the protagonists and their families touched on themes of loneliness and estrangement, and this was essential in fleshing out their relationship with the new world of 1Q84.
Unfortunately, it may be the length of the novel, the aspect I didn’t think would bother me, which is one of its biggest downfalls. Although his prose is delightful, it seems too unrestrained, and chapters and pages meander without any place to go. Descriptions are reiterated often, and perhaps the author made this as a stylistic choice, but it seemed unnecessary. The two main protagonists observe two moons in the sky, and the reader will get to know these moons very well, as they are described over and over again.
And, if you are interested in women’s breasts, you are in for a treat, because there is not one female character in this novel whose breasts aren’t carefully described. This proved to be one of the more challenging hurdles while reading this novel. The female characters were fully formed individuals, but there were several instances of sexualizing that seemed gratuitous.
So, I’m torn. There were lovely aspects of this novel, and some not so lovely. I typically adore the work of Murakami, and and there’s no question that he is a great author.
Because I’m so torn on this novel, going back and forth between enjoying the writing style and the innate strangeness of it, but balking at the unnecessary length and gratuitous boob descriptions, I’ll leave the ultimate review decision to the Golden Lion (a plaster lion I painted gold and stands right next to my bookshelf). This relieves me of any responsibility in rating this book.
Golden Lion says three and a half stars. There you have it. But, don’t write off Murakami’s work, because he has written many delightful 5-star books.