The year is 1984 in Tokyo and we follow the lives of Aomame, a professional hitperson and Tengo, a basically ghost writer.
The chapters alternate between the two main characters, providing a glimpse into each of their stories. The second thing that bothered me was the absolute lack of empathy, of passion - but here I have to admit it may be the loss in translation. I cannot imagine what the original text would describe or how it would be received by readers aware of the Japanese culture. However, I am not immersed in Victorian French culture either, but I can make respective provisions when I read the relevant texts. Having said that, I can now describe how I felt reading this translated text: I had the impression I was reading a literary attempt by an sex-crazed teenage boy - extremely detailed description of every little (pointless) detail that resulted in a tome, and which could be condensed to a lot less. I apologise to Murakami''s audience, who may have been able to discover something I am not in a position to do, but I seriously could not find anything that I would describe as "serious writing". And I'm using this term, because this is how it was described in the reviews I read. I was expecting a solemn, perhaps slightly dry writing, that would parallel Orwell's 1984 (here already I accept this was never the case).
Instead, I found myself with two main characters who are completely devoid of any human trait: their lives are perfectly regulated, and there seem to be no highlights to mark any important event, time, space - everything is described in total apathy, without any feelilng towards anything... Third and perhaps major point that bothered in this book was the sex. I would not characterise myself as prude, but even I could not handle every other page describing Aomame's obsession with her own body and her fantasies with other women, or Tengo's fantasy with his mother. I can accept this being a background, an element towards a story, but I did not expect it to be THE story. Because reaching the middle of Book I, when I was ready to give it up - it was clear I did not like it - I actually persevered and finished it, just to make sure that there was not any twist in the story and I would miss it. No, there was no such twist. I finished Book I and the only two things I knew about these two characters were their fantasies. Nothing wrong in that, but not what I was expecting.
I did not continue into Book II, because, frankly, by the end of Book I I had lost interest in Murakami. I have since talked to people who have read his books, and some have confirmed that this seems to be his style - totally acceptable, but it's not for me. I want to read books that will intrigue me, that will take me out of my comfort zone (which this book did, but it put me in a very uncomfortable one), that will make excellent use of the written word (again, translation does not help in such cases), that will take me places, in the end that will have me think about the impact on my life. As such, 1Q84 did not have any long-term impact. Which was a lesson for me: I gave 1Q84 a whole-hearted try, I could not get into the characters' skin, I now know that this type of writing does not appeal to me. Again, nothing wrong in that...