I have to admit to having a penny pinching soft spot for very long audiobooks, as I have an Audible account and a credit is a credit, no matter how long or how short the audiobook is, so I like to get maximum listening time. 1Q84 has to be the longest I’ve ever listened to though, coming in at whopping 46 hours and 50 minutes.
I’ve always been curious about Murakami and this is the first one of his I’ve ever listened to / read. It tells the story of two characters living in Toyko; Aomame and Tengo. Aomame and Tengo knew each other as children but became separated from each other but not before an event romantically links them together, an event that still resonates in their adult lives. Aomame becomes a fitness instructor with a certain interesting side skill and Tengo is a cram school maths teacher who writes novels on the side. When Tengo is asked to commit fraud by ghost writing an entry in a competition and Aomame is asked to exercise her unique side skill (really trying not to include spoilers here), their paths become intertwined again. The book (actually 3 books in one) alternates between events happening to Tengo and events happening to Aomame and later on a third character is introduced, Ushikawa, a crooked ex-lawyer and we follow his side of events to. The book takes in alternate realities, overly lengthy discourses on editing, domestic abuse, religious sects and a certain fantasy element. Overall I liked the story but didn’t love it, I am certainly no prude but some of the sex scenes are cringeworthy and the author seemed to have an obsession with breasts. Also one of the characters, Aomame, is constantly rearranging her face into fearsome frowns, which got a bit tiring after a while. I’m certainly glad I listened to it but some parts were patchy and the ending seemed a little too conveniently rushed, which is surprising considering it is such a long book. However I feel like I’ve spent the whole of January and a good part of February in 1980s Toyko and I feel like I’ve learnt a little about it, which I appreciate, I certainly appreciate that they ate way better than I do anyway (loved the food descriptions in the book). And also some parts were very good, in particular I found the scenes later on in the book with the NHK collector, excellently creepy, only ruined slightly by the audiobook’s three different narrators giving him (obviously) a different voice as they read out their scenes where their characters get to meet him, I thought that the narrator for Aomame did the voice of the NHK collector fantastically whereas the narrators for Tengo and Ushikawa, not so good. The same effect also happened when another side character was voiced differently by the three narrators but I guess it was a difficult issue to get around and overall having three different narrators, one for each main character generally worked.