I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
This was my first book by Haruki Murakami, and it was an extraordinary experience. At one point in the book, while discussing one of the main characters, it states that something "Had shaken his heart from a strange angle". And I think that's a good description of how this book affected me. It shook my heart from a strange angle.
I've never read a book quite like this one; it was unique. It has a certain moral ambiguity to it, especially in the first half. This caught me off guard and was unsettling, but it did fade to a much lesser issue as the story progressed.
The story weaves common threads throughout the book; opening up questions on themes of loneliness, the vacuums left by people or loss (and whether these can or should be filled), both the damage and comfort of religion, how our childhood scars affect us as adults (and how much power we should allow them to have) and the very thin line - the delicate balance - between Right and Wrong, Good and Bad.
Mostly, however, the book is a deep mystery that pulls you into it's dark running current and carries you along. I know some of the other reviews did not appreciate or enjoy Ms. Hiroto's narration, but I loved it and couldn't imagine the story without it. I thought it was exquisite, as was the performance of the other narrators as well.
The stunning, stark, simple honesty that was the hallmark of any conversation held by the character of Tengo was my favorite aspect of the book. It's hard to describe, but the character always speaks and replies to questions with no pretense, no pride... it really impacted me.
Especially towards the second half of the book, there were sudden twists of humor that were a welcome gift; inspiring short, unexpected guffaws.
Yes, the book can be unsettling on many levels; but it's also very impactful. I'll never forget my time in 1Q84, under the two moons.
This audiobook is very different from most in how it is presented. Picture sitting in the library room of an old, grand manor at night, curled up on a sofa by a crackling fire, while a distinguished man in an armchair quietly reads to you from some leather-bound volume in his lap. That is the feel and quality of this recording, with both the benefits and drawbacks that come with it.
The soft, rich voice of the author is both lyrical and melodious - and that remains a constant of the production. His voice lulls you into a nearly hypnotic state where you can end up just listening to the sound of him speaking, and miss what is actually being SAID. What this meant for me was that the book took more concentration than I normally need, because there were no audio cues of any event taking place. Accounts of a quiet afternoon tea are read with the exact same tone and cadence as the description of a dramatic, terrifying storm at sea, or the occurrence of an attempted murder. Blink, and you'll miss it.
To me, the story was beautiful and honest. It took far more time than usual to learn about and care for the cast of characters (and through this to appreciate the story in it's entirety); but in real life, we don't really know someone's full value when we meet them. People are nuanced, complicated, and cautious; and it takes time, care, and effort to fully understand and appreciate them. We reveal ourselves slowly. I thought this story was a great reminder of this.
In the end, whether you enjoy this book may possibly depend on what your expectations are, and what situation you will be listening to it in. I can't imagine having gotten as much from it, or enjoying it nearly so much if I was listening in the car over a handful of days, as I sometimes do; but listening to it at home, quietly, over the course of 24 hours was a rare and special treat that felt both magical and intimate.
This story will stay with me, and I'm glad to know it.
In my opinion, this book is more of an art project than a novel. I remember sitting on a bench in a large gallery in the Louvre. The large, framed painting hung on the wall in front of me showed a scene of ANOTHER large gallery in ANOTHER museum, with some OTHER people sitting on a bench, looking at the painting in front of THEM...
This book is like that. It’s a story of a married couple that are performance artists. They spend their lives trying to manipulate people into being upset and uncomfortable. The fact that their parents do this makes our main characters (the couple’s children) upset, and uncomfortable. As a result of this, and in experiencing how this repeatedly hurts these vulnerable, damaged kids, it is now the you, the reader, who will become upset, and uncomfortable.
What does home and family really mean? If qualities such as loyalty, constancy, and a sense of safety are absent, does it cease to truly BE home and family? At what point do you have the right to walk away? And if you believe you have earned that right... is it even possible to do so?
These questions rise to the surface as Annie and Buster, now grown from damaged kids to damaged adults find themselves with nowhere to turn but the very childhood home that damaged them in the first place. When something happens that could be a tragedy, the siblings have to ask themselves; is the tragedy actually a reality? Or is it just another presentation of their parents art? If their parents ARE behind the events, isn’t that just as tragic? Their parents have manipulated the siblings into being unwitting, living props so many times, they no longer know the difference between what’s real, and what’s “pretend”. As a reader of the book, I came to the conclusion that there was no difference at all between the two.
Through all of this however, the underlining foundation of the book was of love; the true, deep, abiding love of two siblings. It was beautiful.
The dénouement left me feeling a little dead inside, sad, and very tired; but the author was kind enough to spend the last 15 minutes of the story gentling moving us back to solid ground, ending the story with a safe place to land before he leaves you. I was extremely grateful for that.
This book is not for everyone. Some will not find the humor funny, or the underlining themes interesting. For some readers, the author’s attempt at making YOU uncomfortable will be so successful you’ll hate the book.. In the end, I was glad I read it. I found it very thought provoking, and utterly original. The narration was also top rate, and I’ll be looking out for more of the narrator’s work.
I’m looking forward to seeing future reviews on this book to read what others thought of this difficult, but very worthwhile, story.