1Q84 – Murakami

Review by Devang Patel

Eriko Fukada; a reserved teenager who witnesses a strange event during her life as a pre-teen in a farming cult in the hills. Aomame; a fitness instructor and a murderer who has spent her life training to find sore muscles to fix. Tengo; a child prodigy, maths instructor and a fiction writer who rewrites Air Chrysalis. Ushikawa; a ruthless, stout, despicable private investigator hired by the farming cult to connect the dots between Aomame and Tengo.

These four major characters are swept from the year 1984 into 1Q84 by a series of perfectly timed events.

Aomame is on her way to kill a greedy, abusive officer and ends up noticing subtle changes in the world which creates a doubt in her thus making her conclude that the world isn’t in 1984 and she earmarks it as 1Q84. She then dives into the past to find out more about these subtle changes and ends up rediscovering her connection with Tengo – during her 3rd grade in school where they had held hands for ten seconds. Their connection was so pure that that small moment left an impression in both Aomame and Tengo’s hearts.

During the same time Tengo is hired to rewrite Eriko’s Air Chrysalis, apparently a fiction, into a work suitable for the prestigious New Writer’s award. Tengo does a magical rewrite and the book becomes a best seller and makes enough noise to cause a ripple in the quiet life of the farming cult. What later follows is the disappearance of Eriko, murder of Eriko’s father and the cult’s leader (by Aomame) and the appearance of Ushikawa in the picture.

Ushikawa unearths the connection between Aomame and Tengo and in course of time he too finds out that he’s been pulled into 1Q84 unknowingly.

1Q84 exists parallel with Japan in 1984. The only difference being the former has ‘The Little People’. Little people who appear out of dead bodies and weave cocoons out of air. Little people who guide kings, who create clones, who control the weather and who push the clock forward. 1Q84 makes the characters dive into their lives, bring out old connections and make them find their much needed closure. The book takes us through Tengo and Aomame’s journey from school to 30 years old adults who eventually end up being together because they were meant to.

Like most of Murakami’s works, this one too is filled with magic! Crows that try to communicate, silent characters who wreak havoc, sex in dreams that cause real pregnancy, long train rides and very specific to this book – two moons!

What I liked the most about this book is Tengo’s journey from leaving a motherless house with a strict, stoic father to becoming a somewhat successful writer/teacher and ends with him breaking down in front of his comatose father and finding a way to accept his reality.

Aomame’s stories take us from her life as a child in a orthodox religious family to an incredible softball player to a physiotherapist who has a knack for finding out the exact spots in a muscle that needs just the right amount of nudging. She is eventually hired by an old dowager who uses her skills to bring justice to women who have been abused by their husbands.

In one such case Aomame is asked to kill the leader of the farming cult and during that appointment she realises how Air Chrysalis has shaped her world and how Tengo and the ten seconds that they spent holding hands have been the most integral part of her life. She then sets out, determined to find Tengo and confess her love even if it yields nothing.

Devang Patel is a full-time civil engineer, a part time photographer, and an eternal wanderer of the mountains. You can reach out to him on his Instagram here @ohmaarabappa

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