1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
In 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, Tengo and Aomame were grade school classmates who experienced a moment of mystical union when Aomame suddenly seized Tengo’s hand. Their paths diverged shortly after Aomame’s gesture, but each was left profoundly changed by it.
Initially, I was not sure whether I would recommend 1Q84 for a book club. My first thought when I finished the book was “huh?”. But the more I thought I about it, the more I wanted to discuss the book with someone.
|In 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, Tengo and Aomame were grade school classmates who experienced a moment of mystical union when Aomame, a girl shunned for belonging to a fringe religious group, suddenly seized Tengo’s hand and looked deeply into his eyes. Their paths diverged shortly after Aomame’s impulsive and ambiguous gesture, but each was left profoundly changed by it. For the next 20 years, they are held in the gravitational pull of this brief moment of connection.The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo. Now a young woman, Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84. Meanwhile, Tengo takes on a project to rewrite the story of 17-year-old Fuka-Eri. The novel, Air Chrysalis, becomes an immediate best seller, attracting widespread media attention and has aroused the ire of the “little people,” a group of other-worldly miniature spirits. Adapted from RandomHouse.com|
Book Club Ideas
In 1Q84, there are two moons, the usual one and one that is smaller and greenish, as though thinly covered with moss. Florist styrofoam balls can be used as the moons. To hang, tie a string around a nail and then push the nail into the foam balls.
The little people are about the height of a pinky finger and are all dressed the same. I raided by son’s Lego’s to find these “little people”.
Aomame could recognize Janácek’s Sinfonietta after hearing just a few bars. It was playing in the taxi that would ultimately lead her to the parallel world. It was the only record she kept when she had to get rid of all her belongings. Tengo had a daily habit of listening to it in the morning.
Fuka-Eri’s favorite music was The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 and 2 by Bach. Tengo noted that this was heavenly music for a mathematician as it was composed of prelude and fugue pairs in major and minor keys using all twelve tones of the scale, twenty-four pieced per book, forty-eight pieces in all, comprising a perfect circle.
Book Club Menu
Moon Pies can be served for dessert. Large vanilla or banana flavored Moon Pies for the regular moon and smaller Moon Pies with a green coating (I used green melting wafers) for the 1Q84 moon.
Another menu idea is anything made with green peas, which is what Aomame’s name means.
Book Club Resources
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 3.81 stars (9464 ratings)|
|Amazon: 3.3 stars (310 ratings)|
|LibraryThing: 3.89 stars (51 ratings)|
|My Rating: 3.5 stars. Haruki Murakami did a great job with the characters. Fuka-Eri was so wonderfully peculiar and I loved how she asked questions without questions marks. However, I had several unanswered questions in the end and some things did not make sense to me (this is the first Murakami book I have read…maybe that is why?). One thing that really didn’t make sense to me was why Aomame, when trying to get out of 1Q84, tried to go back down the same stairs that took her into 1Q84. To undo something you do the opposite…up the stairs, Aomame, up the stairs!|
- What did you think of Aomame and Tengo? Were they likeable characters? Did you respect or admire them?
- What were the parallels between 1Q84 and George Orwell’s 1984?
- Did you think Amomame was a heartless killer or can you identify with her motivations? Is she acting out of revenge or is her desire to help battered women her main motivator?
- Why do you think Tengo agreed to rewrite Air Chrysalis?
- Have you read any other Haruki Murakami novels? What are the similarities and differences in the subject matter and writing style? Do you plan on reading his other novels after reading this one?
Here are some of the thought-provoking discussion questions from the publisher, Random House:
- The taxi driver in Chapter 1 warns Aomame that things are not what they seem, but he also tells her: “Don’t let appearances fool you. There’s always only one reality” (p. 9). Does this statement hold true throughout the novel? Is there only one reality, despite what appears to be a second reality that Aomame and Tengo enter?
- Aomame tells Ayumi: “We think we’re choosing things for ourselves, but in fact we may not be choosing anything. It could be that everything’s decided in advance and we pretend we’re making choices. Free will may be an illusion” (p. 192). Do the events in the novel seem fated or do the characters have free will?
- How do the events that occur on the night of the huge thunderstorm alter the fates of Aomame, Tengo, Fuka-Eri, and the dowager? Why do Aomame and the dowager let go of their anger after the storm?
- Near the end of the novel, Aomame declares: “From now on, things will be different. Nobody else’s will is going to control me anymore. From now on, I’m going to do things based on one principle alone: my own will” (p. 885). How does Aomame arrive at such a firm resolve? In what ways is the novel about overcoming the feeling of powerlessness that at various times paralyzes Aomame, Ayumi, Tengo, Fuka-Eri, and all the women who are abused by their husbands? What enables Aomame to come into her own power?
- What is the appeal of the fantastic elements in the novel – the little people, maza and dohta, the air chrysalis, two moons in the sky, alternate worlds, etc.? What do they add to the story? In what ways does the novel question the nature of reality and the boundaries between what is possible and not possible?
- What role does belief play in the novel? Why does Murakami end the book with the image of Tengo and Aomame gazing at the moon until it becomes “nothing more than a gray paper moon, hanging in the sky” (p. 925)?
Purchase 1Q84 at your favorite bookseller
|Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. Not much about his private life is known (or has not yet been translated). In the 1970s he opened a Jazz Bar called ‘Peter Cat’ which he later sold to begin writing full time. In the early 1990′s he was an Associate Professor at Princeton University. Unlike most other authors or writers in general he leads a very healthy life. He quit smoking and started running amongst other sports when he gave up the Jazz Bar. He runs several marathons per year all over the world. He did however not leave his deep love to Jazz music behind and is said to have a record collection of around 40,000 items. His work has been translated into forty-two languages. The most recent of his many honors is the Franz Kafka Prize. From Murakami.ch|
Other Works by Author and Recommended Reading
Below are a few of Murakami’s many books as well as 2 books that were mentioned in 1Q84. Fuka-Eri’s favorite book was The Tale of the Heike and she was able to recite entire passages from the novel. Aomame reads In Search of Lost Time when in hiding.
Do you have any other ideas or recipes for a book club party for 1Q84? We would love to have you share them with us! You can leave a comment below and upload pictures as well.
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