Monday, April 2, 2012

Books around the world: Japan

I just finished reading a 925 page book by the popular Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami. The book, 1Q84, is different than anything I have read before. It's a best-selling novel in Japan, hugely successful.

I read a lot, but I've never read this author before. It was a good story, quite interesting, and kept me engaged. To describe the genre, I'd say it was a fantasy, modern-day (unless you count the year 1984 as vintage), mystery, love story, and tale of self-discovery.

The story is set in Japan, in an alternate 1984, with chapters that switch off between the two main characters, a man and a woman who are trying to find each other. The characters enter this strange world and see discrepancies all around them.

Aomame and Tengo live in this bizarre parallel world and try to make sense of things. Tengo is a math teacher and author who ghostwrites a novel. This action sets off a dangerous line of events. His life unravels. Aomame does something bad but with good intentions. She also gets dragged into a perilous situation. Other characters include an overly insistent television-fee collector, a weird private investigator, a religious cult leader, bodyguards, killers, and other colorful characters.

Many things happen in the story that cause a reader to have to read between the lines. It's a thinking novel but has a lot of action. I enjoyed it but thought it was a little long. There is a lot of repetition in it, especially with repeated dialogue. I wasn't sure if that was the author's style of writing or if the characters just felt it necessary to make sure they heard others right, constantly parroting back what they heard.

It's a profound story, written by a talented author, but so long. However, many things that were written out in great detail were interesting. So much of the book includes minutiae. It's a great look into Japanese culture as well. As an American, I enjoyed the insights.

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