Haruki Murakami – 1Q84 (Book 3) review

This is the last book of Murakami’s 1Q84 series. There are also single volume versions available for readers who’d prefer not to have the three-volume box set or purchase three volumes separately.

Following my reviews from Book 1 and Book 2, I’ll have to say I am unimpressed, and in fact, slightly disappointed with Book 3. (Spoilers included.)

Personally, I found that the addition of Ushikawa’s POV into the book disrupted the consistency developed since volume 1. Largely due to this addition, the first half of the book was mainly repeating many things which were mentioned in the first two volumes (Ushikawa’s investigation of the Leader’s death led him to delve into the lives of Tengo and Aomame). If Book 3 was made into a movie, it will be one with lots of flashback scenes.

That said, the story did not pick up from where Book 2 left off until the second half of Book 3. It may be argued that contents from the first half of Book 3 were necessary for Ushikawa’s character build up. His character was not entirely unappealing. Ushikawa played a succinctly salient role in leading Aomame to Tengo’s apartment, although unknowingly.

As mentioned, the story picked up again in the second half of the book.

There were a handful of consequential scenes and conversations involving Tamaru, the man who swore upon his life to serve the Dowager wholeheartedly. Tamaru was often portrayed as a remarkable hitman, except he kills to protect the Willow House and the Dowager. Tamaru’s chilling character was accentuated in the chapter of Ushikawa’s POV when he murdered the latter and phoned the point of contact in Sakigake to dispose of the dead body. On other episodes when he decided it was not necessary to personally take on a job, he a wise and caring man. Very often he would give advice to Aomame (over the phone) who went into hiding. He would do everything within his capacity to protect Aomame in the name of the Dowager. His presence provided much needed assurance to Aomame who was in need of assistance to get by her days of hiding while searching for Tengo.

While 1Q84 is a beautiful story centering Aomame and Tengo, two individuals who went through all kinds of hardships to see each other again after realising they have loved each other for the past twenty years. It took Tengo twenty years, with the loss of a girlfriend and his father, and being thrown into utter loneliness, to realise that Aomame may be the only one that he had ever loved. This closely mirrors our own behaviour and reactions in daily life; a new environment brings about a realisation you’ve never had, when something is gained, another is lost, everything happens for a reason that is rarely comprehensible.

I cannot say that the story ended as how I expected it to end. The way it ended was too beautiful. It was a heartwarming ending. I had surmised Murakami to put an abrupt end to the story without clear conclusions or answers, like he did in several of his other books, which seemed a lot like desperate and convenient attempts to finish off a half done job. If all I cared about was Tengo and Aomame, I would have been satisfied. It was indescribable joy (so thankful to Murakami) to read that they found each other and exited the world with two moons hand in hand.

As with several other of his works, there were unfinished business in this three-volume series. The cult/religious organisation was left hanging (they were on their way to Tengo’s apartment when he left for the playground to meet with Aomame), it was unclear who was chosen to be Leader’s successor (readers could speculate that it was the child Aomame carried, which was why they were pursuing her and claimed they had no intention to cause her harm), what happened to them without a new Leader, if the Fuka-Eri, the one who lived with Tengo for three months, was the dohta or maza, the origin of this two terms dohta and maza and which category does Aomame’s child fall into. There are so many matters open for speculation. It may represent the writer as inciting readers to think, or, unpleasantly, seemed as laziness to tie loose ends.

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Haruki Murakami – 1Q84 (Book 2) review

Dated started: 22 June 2016
Date ended: 29 June 2016

I am a relatively slow reader. I enjoy taking in the words in all pages unhurriedly, at my own pace. To complete a novel within a week can be considered my record time. This shows how engrossed I was into the story. My mind was constantly chanting “More, more, I need to know more” as I flipped through the pages.

The plot up till Book 2 was very well thought through; one of the best flowing plot from Murakami in my opinion. Book 2 in particular had already made its way up to the top of my list of favourites.

I would have thought Book 2 will have lesser twists and turns being the transition into the final book where two worlds break loose but I was so wrong. Following through Tengo and Aomame’s side of the story felt like chasing after a peculiar sea creature fifteen metres under the sea with unpredictable currents. Every time I get near the creature, there will be strange currents closing in from nowhere sweeping me away, deliberately keeping a distance between me and the creature.

It is the same as with Tengo and Aomame. By fate or by intervention of the Little People, they unconsciously fell into the world with two moons together. They had not met each other in twenty years, or had the luxury of feeling each other’s touch, but they were always spiritually connected by opposing the Little People.

For Aomame, it was to protect Tengo, and the only memory of Tengo which took away her loneliness in the twenty years she isolated her inner self. She took the life of Leader so that Tengo could live, knowing the action could very well mean the end of her own life. As long as Tengo can live on, the memory of Tengo will never fade away. Knowing that he is alive and has never forgotten her, the thought is comforting, and she is not lonely anymore.

I’m all alone, but I’m not lonely.

She told Tamaru over the phone.

I have grown attached to Aomame for all the sacrifices she is willing to make to preserve her feelings for Tengo, something intangible. She may be dead, but she knows she loves Tengo, and knowing that keeps her alive.

Tengo Kawana finally realised that he had no one, after losing the adulterous relationship with his married girlfriend. Following Fuka-Eri’s lead, he came to believe that the only person he may have ever loved was Aomame, through a memory of her when she was ten years old. His resolve to find Aomame, and to see Aomame again, deeply moved me.

Book 2 began the cat and mouse chase, of Aomame, Tengo, the Little People, and the air chrysalises. The chase is straining, heart rendering, evokes memories of childhood, puts the characters in despair, but regardless of all anguish, it illustrates how love conquers all.

I am three chapters into Book 3. I want Tengo and Aomame to finally meet each other, against all odds, and return to their own world of 1984, where only one moon hangs in the night sky. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the two of them.

Hans Peter Richter – Friedrich review

Friedrich is a notable book written by Hans Peter Richter who also wrote many books for children and young adults. The content of this book was used as study material for Literature classes back in my high school days. It was such a shame though, looking back at those days, not many of us kids were able to feel deeply for this book. All we knew was that Friedrich was a poor Jewish boy, discrimination is bad, and that’s about it.

I revisited this book a few years after graduating high school. Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, it felt a lot like I was reading it for the very first time. Details and emotions which I failed to capture when I was a lot younger all surfaced.

Even though it is a book about the Holocaust, it does not heavily portray any doctrines or politics. It is a very simple and straightforward book; the holocaust through the eyes of a child, rid of all abstract ideologies. Exactly because of its simplicity, it painfully illustrates the sufferings people went through; not just the Jews, but everybody living in that era, because a child would not know of the term ‘discrimination’ or ‘antisemitism’. All he knew was that parents were losing jobs, families often have not enough to feed everybody in the house, there were unreasonable bullying and violence, his friend Friedrich and some other kids were forced to drop out of the school they were studying in, and finally the escalation to war which nobody he knew of could have prevented.

I vividly remember the scene where poor Friedrich was denied entrance to the bomb shelter because the man knew he was Jewish. The helplessness is unimaginable, the despair effectively hits the reader. Friedrich and everyone else who were safely hiding in the shelter knew very well that it was impossible for Friedrich to survive if he was not allowed to take refuge in the shelter. They also knew that the man or anyone inside had every capacity to extend help and take Friedrich in. None of that happened. He had to witness all the cruelty to Friedrich, till the moment war took his final breath away.

I hope that people who read this book will not only feel deeply, but also learn something (if not more) about Judaism as a religion, and to respect and appreciate life as a substance.

 

 

Haruki Murakami – 1Q84 (Book 1) review

The parallel paths experienced by the two protagonists enticed me to read on, only to uncover more of every characters’ past lives, each of them one way or the other linked to the community turned religious cult Sakigake.

The characters

It saddens me when there is no way of telling the chances of the two individuals finally crossing paths. The uncertainty increases as Aomame falls deeper into the world she self-proclaimed to be 1Q84, eventually accepting the distance between 1Q84 and the world of 1984 where she believed she had always been residing in. One followed by another mystifying events forced her to have to alter the information deemed as ‘facts’ in the former world; facts in 1Q84 became unfamiliar to her. However personally I wouldn’t find Aomame a pleasing character. Her thoughts often portray her as cynically, especially during her ‘hunting’ episodes when she tries to get one night stands.

Fuka-Eri on the other hand I find quite lovable. Undeniably, the written portrait of her puts an unrealistic image of a girl in my head. Her character though, was very concise. I particularly favour her way of speaking. Characters around her often expressed that she was not very articulate. That may be true, but this all the more makes her a conspicuous character. I hope I am not the only one who thinks this; Murakami often repeats the traits of the characters he created, both in the same story and across different stories.

For example, Tengo, the cram school teacher against the idea of fraud, mostly unconcerned with matters other than his own, ironically maintains an adulterous affair with a married woman ten years his senior. The two would have their secret rendezvous at his apartment on a weekly basis. A character with similar outlines can be found in Sputnik Sweetheart; only known as “K”, an elementary school teacher who also maintained an adulterous affair with one of his students’ mother.

The mishaps of the other characters with comparatively lesser importance are, the way it was narrated, inscrutably disturbing. Its narrations shines light on perspectives not usually seen from. As such, matters (say, rape) which usually evoke negative emotions such as discomfort, disgust, feelings that make you cringe on the outside, becomes implosive instead.

Things may look different to you than they did before. I’ve had that experience myself. But don’t let appearances fool you. There’s only one reality.

I cannot wait to unravel the secret behind Sakigake, the now religious cult, and its leader in the second/third book. I also hope the second and third book will provide logical basis to the influential backgrounds of the Dowager (the woman who will later instruct Aomame to assassinate the cult leader) and the Sakigake leader who had alienated himself from the common society.

I am no doubt engrossed in the ostensibly ‘two different worlds’, however I wouldn’t call this Murakami’s best work, at least not at Book 1. There were several references which seemed unrelated to the story build-up, or perhaps the relation not yet revealed.

Regardless, I am moving on to Book 2 and will recommend this to readers who enjoy the concept of parallel worlds (NOT SCIENTIFICALLY/QUANTUM PHYSICALLY), cults and doctrines.

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – Book review

Nineteen Eighty-four is by far my highest rated book, and I foresee it will wear this crown for a long time before it gets overthrown. Therefore it is only right that I dedicate my first published book review to this revolutionary creation.

I made an effort to understand the background of the author Eric Arthur Blair, better known as his pen name George Orwell, before entering his literary political world. I am eternally grateful that his impactful works including ‘Animal Farm’ (think of this as a fairy tale) got published before they took him away. Even though it was published in the year 1949, he set up this dystopian world in the year of 1984. His capacity to imagine a world several decades later, while being war torn, was simply unearthly.

Orwell’s protagonist in Nineteen Eighty-four resides in Oceania, whose daily routine was unbearably mundane to him. He works as an Inner Party member for the ruling party of Big Brother in the Ministry of Truth, ironically concerning themselves with fabricating historical events and news as propagandas.

What do I like about Nineteen Eighty-four

“The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation.”

In the first chapter, Orwell erected four virtual buildings in my head, each representing the ministries where the party members worked, each ministry depressingly named after the antonym of their functions. His protagonist Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth and his daily scope of duties includes altering news reports so that they coincide with the party’s policies. For me, the most spine-chilling irony is the Ministry of Love which functions to annihilate any thoughts showing signs of individualism which threatens the prowess of the party, regardless of intensity. This play of antonyms is most daunting, making it so impressive. Some writers will later attempt to adapt this concept; the different factions in the Divergent series.

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

The play of antonyms can also be sensed in the three slogans of the ruling party. The subtle irony in these slogans is explained by the repugnant traitor portrayed by the character named Goldstein, through the book which spells resistance, ‘Goldstein’s Book’. It meticulously lines out the cause and effect of every empire, dynasty, and revolution since the beginning of human civilization, further affirming my belief that causes and effects come in loops. Distressing to know but I find myself agreeing to the teachings, equivalently agreeing to the three slogans of the party.

Or again, if you want a stronger version of ‘good,’ what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like ‘excellent’ and ‘splendid’ and all the rest of them? ‘Plusgood’ covers the meaning or ‘doubleplusgood’ if you want something stronger still.” (Syme)

Orwell created his own set of dictionary (Newspeak) in the book. For example, the ruling party’s name Ingsoc represents English Socialism; having individuality in thoughts and expressions and pursuing individual interest are perceived as a single forbidden action, thoughtcrime; doublethink is the ability required of all party members: to fully trust in the information produced by the Ministries while knowing they were altered. The concepts he created from these ‘Newspeak’ words aptly raised the ruling party to the epitome of tyranny. I especially liked how the in-book dictionary he created was supposed to eliminate all signs of emotions and greatly narrow the amplitude of thoughts.

The entire book is a parallel of our real world; the events that led to the rise and fall of political leaders, the doctrines practiced by ruling parties of their ages, the invisible caste system present in every century. Though residing in a country free of war and invasion in the 21st century, it is not difficult to spot traces of Orwell’s theories, which makes Orwell’s work brilliant. To elevate this point, understanding Orwell’s theories changed my perspective on many things that I used to view without intricacy. I would like to use one of my favourite trilogy ‘Hunger Games’ as an example. It can no longer be viewed as just a movie franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence, and oppressed people staging a revolution with futuristic gadgets. Seeing statistics of GDP on the news channels and papers will remind me of the underlying purpose of the Ministry of Plenty.

There are many other reasons for ranking this novel my utmost top to date, be it noteworthy or insignificant, for I know it touched me personally, gave me nightmares and sleep paralysis in the middle of the night, gave me knowledge I never had, and great insights to all other things I never paid more attention to. Readers who don’t usually fancy fiction novels should give it a try too!