August Discussion 1Q84 Part 3We’ve made it to the end! How did you go? Did you finish the whole trilogy in a single month? Or are you joining in a little later?

**WARNING** The discussion prompts and comments below will contain spoilers for all 3 books in the 1Q84 trilogy. Only continue if you have finished all 3!)

What was your overall feeling about 1Q84? (And star rating if you give one)

I really enjoyed it, and am giving it 4 stars. However it’s not my favourite Murakami novel, and I definitely feel like the final book left a lot to be desired. Aomame and Fuka Eri were such interesting characters, and along with Tamaru they really carried this story for me.

Murakami’s style of writing is quite unusual. Was there anything about his writing style that stood out to you?

For me I particularly noticed his emphasis on the minutia of daily life. There are often descriptions of exactly what characters did, especially around food preparation and dining, or exercise and free time. Most authors would omit these, or leave them as ‘Tengo prepared and ate a simple dinner’ rather than giving a dish-by-dish description of the meal and the cooking process. By book 3 I was a bit sick of this literary device, but in the first book at least I found it a pleasant break from the weird and wonderful happening around the characters.

Do you have a favourite quote? If so, what about it was important to you?

My favourite quote is definitely:

“The unfeeling chunk of rock hung low in the sky as if, having nothing better to do, it was suspended on an invisible thread.”

There is something so beautifully atmospheric about this quote. It evokes for me a scene of restless quiet, a detached, ambivalent kind of loneliness. It reminds me of all the best parts of this novel.

As we discussed in Book 1, loneliness and isolation appear throughout 1Q84. But Murakami also seems interested in the unavoidable connections that we all have, regardless of how lonesome we might be. Do you think connection is an essential part of human nature?

I have been thinking a lot about this quote:

“A person’s life may be a lonely thing by nature, but it is not isolated.”

The distinction between loneliness and isolation is important here. Because both Tengo and Aomame live quite isolated lives, but they both have important elements of connection that prevent them from being totally isolated. They both also in some ways feel lonely, but their memories of eachother and hope to meet sustains them through experiences that others might find to lonely to bear.

Violence against women, and the power dynamics between men and women (especially in terms of sexual desire) is present throughout 1Q84 so far. How do you feel about how these dynamics have been portrayed?

Murakami’s novels often seem to have elements which explore sexual desire, and elements of particularly brutal violence, but I think this is the first time I have seen the two in concert in one of his novels. To be honest I found some of the content quite confronting, especially some of the discussions about attitudes towards rape. But perhaps that is the point? A lot of this novel seems to be poking different issues to see what might emerge. I was glad that Aomame as a character acted as a focal point for many of the power struggles, her unflinching viewpoint was refreshing, but I think rather atypical of women in Japanese society.

What else would you like to discuss? Do you have any other thoughts about 1Q84? (If you’ve written a review you can share a link to it if you like)

 

**Don’t forget in September the Babbling Book Club will be reading The Girl at Midnight. If you’re joining in don’t forget to tag any posts with #babblingbookclub so I don’t miss them, and so you can find your fellow readers! **

Tamsien - Babbling Books
Reader, blogger, photographer with perpetually itchy feet. Host of Babbling Books' Readalongs and curator of a very eclectic Instagram account.

4 Comments

  1. Hi Tamsien,

    Definitely an interesting book choice this month. Before I go into full rant mode, I do have a favourite quote:
    “I’m kind of a print junkie, I always need to have something to read with me.” For no reason other than I relate to it with all my heart!

    I really enjoyed book 1 and 2 (which I read as one book), I rated it 4 stars. I loved the whole concept of two moons in the sky signifying they were in a different world, I was thoroughly intrigued by the Little People and their air chrysalis’. What a great character Fuki-Eri was, always talking in riddles, perceivers and receivers, I thoroughly enjoyed it. And the ending to book 2 was amazing – Aomame about to kill herself to save Tengo’s life. I immediately had to go to my library and get book 3 to see how this story ended.

    I’m afraid that is where my excitement ended. I thought book 3 was such a let down, I rated it 2 stars (the only reason it didn’t get 1 is because 1 star is reserved for books I don’t finish). I have some questions to ask Murakami:

    1 – What about the Little People? What happened to the last air chrysalis they were building?
    2 – Why did we focus so much on Tengo visiting his dying father?
    3 – Ushikawa is killed off, was there any point in giving him a perspective and so much of the story?
    3 – Don’t you think you took it a bit far when during the storm Tengo was having sex with Fuki-Eri, but his sperm transported itself into Aomame, who was off killing Leader at the time, and now she’s pregnant, despite them not seeing each other since that day at school? (I know this is sci-fi but please….)

    And lastly, and most importantly

    5 – Why did nothing happening in book 3, Aomame hid out in the safe house for the whole book, did some exercise, then walked back up the stair case with Tengo and that’s a wrap ladies and gentlemen?

    It felt like a total cop-out, it’s great to leave the readers wanting more at the end of a book and questions left unanswered, but nothing was cleared up in this book. After reading how many pages, your readers deserved more.

    It’s fair to say I did not like book 3, it made me so mad!

    This book is so widely loved, did I miss something? I look forward to hearing other readers thoughts, am ! in the minority?

    1. Oh I definitely agree with you about Book 3, though my feeling were perhaps not quite as extreme. It did really frustrate me that a new perspective was added only for him to be killed off. I felt like that ruined the rhythm of the narrative, which had been so balanced between Aomame and Tengo. But perhaps that was the point? To have Book 3 as a ‘off kilter’ change of pace? I also really wanted to know what was going on with the Little People. In many of Murakami’s other book he has fantasy/sci fi/spiritual type elements and they are very rarely explained even in vague terms. Usually they just happen to the protagonist. So I was quite surprised when we got as much explanation as we did in Book 2. This led me to believe that we might get MORE conclusion in Book 3. But alas it was not to be!

      I thought this was a really interesting perspective from one of our fellow readers below “I think the reason the book ended the way it did was to highlight the fact that it was the end of the book, not of the story, and that life continues on in all the worlds, and we will never have all the answers because that is the nature of life.”

      It doesn’t answer my endless questions, but it does make me feel a little better about the ending. And I can go on hoping that some of the characters get happier lives in 1984.

  2. Hi Tamsien!
    •I loved the book, I would give it 4.5 stars- I was immediately and completely absorbed in it. I actually set it aside one night and did some other reading, because I didn’t want it to end.
    •I love the attention to detail in Murakami’s writing. You mentioned that you began to find the minutae somewhat tedious after a while- I liked the way “watching” the characters cook, exercise, etc put me right in the room with them, it made the book feel very intimate. It also built tension about the other events going on; events would rush along for a while and suspense would start to build, and then we are forced to slow right down and step out of the action for a bit, wondering what is looming outside.
    •As for favorite quotes, I really liked the one you mentioned about the moon, but I’m still stuck on the butterflies. I found it so whimsical when they talked in books 1 and 3 about not awakening the sleeping butterflies. Another quote I liked was kind of a throw-away comment by Kumi, when she likened the death of Tengo’s father to “a windless day at the end of autumn, when a single leaf falls from a tree”.
    •Everything in this novel seems to be connected to everything else, life echoing the little spiders’ webs on the stairway. Some of the connections are more tenuous than others, like Tengo’s father’s spirit leaving his body to go and connect the NHK fees from Fuka-Eri, Aomame, and Ushikawa; there was also the nurse Kumi telling Tengo that she had died before, that she had been strangled- that made me wonder if maybe she was a reincarnation of Tengo’s mother. I googled the words ‘maza’ and ‘dohta’ and was directed to a blog that postulated that the “terms refer to the relationship between mind and body and the connection between them”. To me, that connection was a more maternal thing; if you say the words aloud, ‘maza’ sounds an awful lot like ‘mother’, and ‘dohta’ like ‘daughter’. The big and little moon also seem kind of like a mother and daughter.
    •I found some of the sexual dynamics in the story to be very intriguing; for instance, Tengo preferring a relationship with an older woman because he can be a completely passive participant- he finds younger women offputting because they expect him to direct the action. This seems to be much the way he lives his life, waiting for things to happen to him instead of taking the initiative. The sexual violence toward the child dohtas was disturbing, then we learn from Leader that his body was physically paralyzed while everything was going on. It was interesting that Aomame was such a strong character- a bit of an anomaly in Japanese society, especially back then.
    •There were some unanswered questions at the end of Book 3, but I think that was intentional- the reader must draw their own conclusions. For example, the air chrysalis the Little People were making with Ushikawa’s hair and a piece of his soul- perhaps a replacement for Leader? Also, how did the events in 1Q84 correspond with events in 1984? Did things that happened in one world also happen in the other? Did Fuka-Eri grow up in the normal world, or was the commune already in the 1Q84 universe? Aomame wondered at one point if Ayumi was alive and well, still writing traffic tickets in our world. I think the reason the book ended the way it did was to highlight the fact that it was the end of the book, not of the story, and that life continues on in all the worlds, and we will never have all the answers because that is the nature of life.
    •Incidental bit of trivia I picked up on a Goodreads group (there is an entire group on Goodreads that is dedicated to analysing 1Q84!!) is that the Japanese number 9 sounds like kyuu- 1Q(kyuu)84 becomes 1984. Very punny!
    Sorry to babble on so long! 😊

    1. Don’t be sorry, this was a big book and it looks like we have all had a LOT to say, which is awesome! I love that you picked up that trivia about the title. I do wondering if there are other things in the novel which get a bit ‘lost in translation’ but I think there wouldn’t be too many as Murakami himself is a translator of English novels to Japanese and it seems from the editions I have anyway that he has worked with a single translator for his novels to English for many years.

      I really loved your comments:
      “…nurse Kumi telling Tengo that she had died before, that she had been strangled- that made me wonder if maybe she was a reincarnation of Tengo’s mother. I googled the words ‘maza’ and ‘dohta’ and was directed to a blog that postulated that the “terms refer to the relationship between mind and body and the connection between them”. To me, that connection was a more maternal thing; if you say the words aloud, ‘maza’ sounds an awful lot like ‘mother'”

      I was very curious about the Mazaa/Dohta connection and I love the connection you have made to the moon. It’s one of the things that I wish he had given us some more clarity on how he was imagining it! But most of all, why on earth was there all these vague hints about Tengo’s mother that are never resolved. That Tengo himself never gets a chance to hear, and then everyone who has the relevant information ends up dead, so you know that in the future he will never be able to find out the truth. For me that would be too painful. But as you mentioned as well about Tengo’s attitude to both life and sexual relationships, he is very passive, and perhaps it suits his character to accept that he will never know the full truth about his monther.

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