Review: 1Q84 Book Two by Haruki Murakami

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The world of Haruki Murakami is a very, very weird one. Literally no-one writes like he does. All of his books are set in quiet towns in Japan where people with ordinary lives have extraordinary, strange and bizzare things happen to them. His work defies categorisation – weird Japanese realistic fantasy is about as close as I can get. However, the stories are so brilliantly written and beautifully detailed that the fantasy elements feel totally natural to the overall narrative – to the point where you can describe an entire book and forget to mention that the main character can converse with cats.

This is quote from my review of 1Q84 Book One and I honestly can’t think of a better way of describing Murakami,  so I’m shamelessly plagiarizing myself. You see, his books really are weird. They’re incredibly intricate, delicate, beautiful little works of art, but there’s a surreal sheen over his portrayal of the mundanity of everyday life that kind of defies explanation. It’s like the difference between seeing a fish in an aquarium and going snorkelling in the ocean – you’re still just watching fish, but when immersed in an underwater world where anything could happen the two experiences are poles apart.

Book Two of 1Q84 has taken me a whole year to get round to  reading, but seriously, wow. This trilogy just gets better and better! The novel is a direct continuation of Book One, where the lives of Tengo and Ayomami are drawing closer together. We find out more about their histories and start to learn who the Little People are, where they come from and who the mysterious Leader is. This information is drip-fed throughout the narrative, so there’s still a huge level of detail about the minutiae of everyday life, but in a world where everything is just a little bit off it’s fascinating to spot the clues to the mystery of the Air Chrysalis.

Despite the fact that we’re learning more about the main characters, I still feel emotionally distant from them. Murakami has created two very controlled individuals who seem to act either completely rationally or without any sort of ethical conflict. There’s a sexual element to the storyline that the author has just about managed to make morally ambiguous, but it’s an odd one and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. I suspect that was his intention, though.

Book Two has a slightly more menacing tone than Book One. The tension is definitely building and the pace is picking up. At the moment I still have more questions than answers and I’m optimistically hoping these will be resolved in Book Three (even though I very much doubt it).

The storyline is still completely bonkers, and I have no idea where it’s going next but that’s the best thing about these books. Murakami has created his own brand of logic within the story and so far he’s stuck rigidly to it – so whilst I feel like literally anything could happen I have faith that it will all ultimately make complete sense.

I understand that the 1Q84 books won’t be for everyone, but if you do want to read outside of your comfort zone then I’d definitely recommend them. You just need to put aside large chunks of time to get through them all – and be prepared, because once you’re into them, you won’t be able to put them down.

Rating: 4.5/5
Trying to explain it is pointless – just go with “brilliant”.

I read this book as part of the Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 #31 Read a book where the main character is a different ethnicity to you.

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