I was on the train having a chat with a new colleague the week before the September school holidays when she mentioned that one of her favorite books was 1Q84. It was about magical realism she said and interest piqued, I went to get the three volume set (from Raffles City's MPH) to have a read.
It sure does not disappoint. Haruki Murakami is a really good storyteller and the writing is beautiful. The first two thirds of the novel alternates between the first person narratives of the two protagonists, Tengo and Aomame. Somehow, I was not too surprised when the two eventually crossed paths near the end of the novel. The last third of the novel brings in another character to give the reader a bit more insight into the story that was unfolding - it got a little more complicated near the end.
To give as little of the story away as possible, the book is about Aomame, a physical trainer doubling up as a lethal assassin, who one day enters a new world similar to the one we live in save for the fact that there are two moons in it. She finds that she is the only one who notices the strangeness of this and named the new world she was in 1Q84, a different world from the year 1984 that she had come from.
I suppose the only qualm I had with the book was the sex in it. Granted, it was not a flippant portrayal just for the sake of it, but as a rather conservative Christian, random hookups with strangers and even the short description of lesbian sex was enough to make me feel pretty uncomfortable. I'd probably not have picked it up if I knew I'd have to read that. Fans of Murakami would probably argue that the book is but a reflection of society today. Still, encountering such copious (in my opinion) amounts of copulation made me want to put down the book more than once if not for the fact that I wanted to know how the story ended.
Brickbats aside, I particularly liked the description of food and the cooking that both Tengo and Aomame did throughout. I have never quite encountered a novel where the preparation of food and the ingredients were listed in such detail and it was rather refreshing. Perhaps it was all the healthy Japanese food they ate too. On a random note, when I had a Japanese dinner with my sister last night, it reminded me of the book and the many meals the main characters had.
So warning given, pick up the book at your own risk. I quite liked this book but probably won't be picking up another Murakami novel any time soon.