At the core of 1Q84 is a spectacular love story about a girl and boy who briefly held hands when they were both 10. That said, with the fiercely imaginative Murakami as author, the story’s exposition is gloriously labyrinthine: Welcome “into this enigma-filled world of 1Q84,” which begins when sports club instructor Aomame exits a taxi and climbs down emergency stairs in order to bypass gridlocked traffic and make her next appointment.
Meanwhile, cram school teacher and wannabe novelist Tengo is in muddled negotiations to secretly rewrite a 17-year-old girl’s fascinating but still raw novella that has the potential to win a top literary prize. A Chekhov-quoting, Proust-sharing ethnic Korean bodyguard; a wealthy widow who shelters abused women; a policewoman with a penchant for wild, anonymous sex; a religious leader who admits to “congress” with prepubescent girls; a comatose father with a traveling spirit; a misshapen disbarred ex-lawyer – these are just some of Murakami’s uniquely signature characters who both hinder and help Aomame and Tengo’s hopeful path toward reunion.
Verdict: Originally published in Japan as three volumes, each of which were instant bestsellers, 1Q84 – perhaps Murakami’s finest – will surely have the same success in its breathlessly anticipated all-in-one English translation. Murakami aficionados will delight in recognizing traces of earlier titles, especially A Wild Sheep Chase, Norwegian Wood, and even Underground.
Published: 2011 (United States)