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Book Review: '1Q84'


If you loved the novel "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," if you loved following the main character, Lisbeth Salander, on her adventures, then our book reviewer, Alan Cheuse, has good news for you. Lisbeth Salander has a sort of soul sister. She's one of the two central characters in a new novel by a different author. It's by Haruki Murakami, and the book is called "1Q84."

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: In the fabled year 1984, an attractive, 30-something, Tokyo physical trainer named Aomame - which in Japanese, means green peas - finds herself in a taxi stuck in a traffic jam on an elevated Tokyo roadway. Aomame has a murderous avocation. She's on her way to carry out an assassination - not her first - of a businessman singled out as a wife abuser and torturer.

Frustrated by the traffic, she exits the cab, scoots among the stalled cars, and climbs down to street level by means of a construction site stairway that might as well be a rabbit hole. By climbing down those exit stairs, she seems to put the world of 1984 behind her and enter a time that she comes to identify as 1Q84, an alternate realm and thus, the Q that bears a question.

The deep and resonant plot that serves as the anchor for her actions, she's longing for her lost childhood love, Tengo Kawana. He's now a writer whose movements and thoughts we observe in alternate chapters. Their story, a modern romance par excellence, takes place under a sky with two moons, and unfolds at a leisurely pace but in compelling fashion, luring us along with scenes of homicidal intrigue, literary intrigue, religious fanaticism, physical sex, metaphysical sex and asexual sex.

Murakami's main characters find themselves drawn toward each other as irresistibly, magnetically, hypnotically, soulfully as well as physically, in ways just as powerful as any characters in contemporary Western fiction. Despite the novel's enormous length, I felt the same attraction. Two moons, two worlds, a girl with 900 wonderful pages.

SIEGEL: "1Q84" is by Haruki Murakami. Our reviewer is Alan Cheuse. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alan Cheuse
Alan Cheuse died on July 31, 2015. He had been in a car accident in California earlier in the month. He was 75. Listen to NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamburg's retrospective on his life and career.