1Q84, the latest novel from the Japanese author, Murakami. In fact, it’s three novels, with the whole trilogy published at the same time, parts one and two in one volume, and the third part in a separate volume. I’d say this is my choice for fiction book of the year. It’s the first novel I’ve read as an ebook and the fact the entire trilogy was on my iPhone and my iPad meant I didn’t need to carry around three large books. I’ll return to that point later.
I loved reading this novel. It has pretty much everything I look for in fiction. Good writing, great storytelling and a book which either makes me think, or somehow changes how I experience the world.
1Q84 is set in Tokyo in 1984 and tells the story of two young people, one of whom is a hired assassin who murders men who abuse women, and the other who is a maths teacher by day, and a writer in his own time. The writer ghost writes a poorly written but fascinating story told by a strange, reclusive 16 year old girl. It becomes a best seller and brings unwelcome attention to highly secretive cult.
Both characters become aware that something isn’t right about the world, the most marked feature being the presence of two moons in the sky. To mark the difference between this world and the world of 1984, they refer to it as 1Q84. It’s this kind of plot turn which is typical of Murakami and which takes you into a border zone between reality and the world of imagination.
The fact that the unusual features of 1Q84 are described in the “novel” written by the 16 year old makes you wonder whether or not all the characters are now living in this novel within the novel you are reading.
This latter theme is probably the key of the whole novel. As well as being a page-turning great read, and a magical love story, 1Q84 really stimulates your thinking about the relationship between imagination and reality, the place of fiction in our lives, and the central importance of story in the creation of the lives we experience. Take a look at this extract -
Isn’t that such a great point about stories? They reflect the messiness, the complexity and the uncertainty of reality, and they change us. In so doing, reading fiction does literally change the reality of the worlds we co-create.
I downloaded this trilogy as a Kindle book and fired it up on both my iPad and my iPhone. I don’t know if you’ve used this technology for reading but it’s great. Both of these devices have lovely, bright, clear screens which make text very readable, and as you progress through the book the different devices keep up with you – so when I would open the book on my iPad, it would automatically offer to jump forwards to the place I’d reached when I last read it on my iPhone, and vice versa. That might sound a little clumsy but it’s a seamless and brilliant experience. It meant I could have a quick read in any few spare moments using my phone, and settle down with the iPad to enjoy the larger screen when I had some more significant reading time. I think this was partly responsible for making this such an immersive experience. I could feel I was living in Tokyo at the same time as living in Scotland.