Welcome to the Book Club. The first thing I want to say is that I love fiction and that I’m an avid reader.

As time goes on, I want this to be a place where you, the users, ultimately decide what should be the Book of the Month by recommending the book you want to be read and discussed. I really want this to be a place where the content is user generated, rather than a place where I lecture you on what novels I enjoyed and want to be discussed. After all, this is your book club, not mine.

I want users to submit their own book reviews as well as their recommendations. The top recommended book will be the Book of the Month, unless it has already been chosen before. The best reviews will be published in the ‘reviews’ section. Reviews you submit must be about the Book of the Month, as I want this to be a place where we get some really good discussion going about our favourite books.

As there are no users yet, I’ve kicked things off with Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. This epic novel, inspired by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, has been a sensation in Japan and has been called Murakami’s magnum opus.

To discuss the book or or my review, just comment on the relevant post.

Of course, you don’t have to submit a review and I welcome criticism as well as praise for the Book of the Month. I’m really passionate about the discussion aspect of this site as I love talking about books and hearing what other people think about them.

1Q84, Book of the Month – December

Flickr: m_culnane

1Q84 is an epic novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. It is set in Tokyo, Japan, in 1984, but there is something strange about the world.

The novel is in three volumes (two in the UK) and is comprised of around 1000 pages. It is considered Murakami’s magnum opus – his great work.

Murakami’s works are known to be quite surreal and while this novel certainly has surreal elements in it, they are less prominent than in previous novels such as Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

The novel is inspired by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and closely follows the lives of a woman called Aomame and a man named Tengo. The former is an assassin and the latter is a maths teacher and aspiring novelist.

At first the two seem entirely unconnected and different, but in the nature of the novel, things are not quite what they seem and something profound between the two starts to unravel.

Little do they know, a strange teenage girl named Fuka-Eri connects them. Tengo has been asked by a persistent man in the publishing business to rewrite her novel and submit it in her name to a literary agency – a task which is completely unethical and goes against Tengo’s moral compass, causing him to grapple with his conscience.

The novel has been billed as a romance, but I feel that is somewhat unfair to the nature and scale of the story Murakami has created. The story is ultimately about love, but it is also about life and the connections we have with each other, whether we choose to form them or not. This is a story which manages to be both delicate and complex.

You can read an excerpt of the novel at the New Yorker.

1Q84 review

Flickr: chinnian

Let me start by saying that 1Q84 is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I stumbled across it one day after seeing a link to an interview with the author, Haruki Murakami, on the homepage of the Guardian’s website. I’m someone who reads a lot of books and thought I would have a read of the interview, even though I hadn’t read any of Murakami’s work before.

Murakami is a man who went out to do what he wanted to do and ignored his parents’ hopes for him. His parents wanted him to study hard and get what Murakami calls a ‘good job’, but instead, in his early twenties, he opted to open a jazz club.

His routine is also far from what you might call ‘normal’. Murakami gets up a 4am everyday, writes for six hours and then trains for marathons in the afternoons. After all that, he finally turns in at 9pm.

What is just as striking perhaps is that Muarakmi only decided he wanted to be a published writer in his late 20s. He hadn’t been dreaming of being a novelist since he was a teenager, or even when he was trying to find himself in his early twenties when he opened his jazz club.

One day it simply struck him that he was able to write a novel, whilst he was watching a baseball game on TV.

What struck me from the very first page of Book 1 of 1Q84 was just how eloquent his prose is. As many people have noted, it’s quite addictive. Some evenings I would start reading it and then in the next minute find that two and a half hours had gone by. His prose is as calming as it is eloquent. It has an almost meditative quality to it. I found myself being completely immersed in Murakami’s 1Q84 world, which takes its inspiration from George Orwell’s wonderful Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is just one of those books that is impossible to put down.

Flickr: Kofoed

It took Murakami three years to write the novel’s 1000 pages, and you can see why. It seems as if not a single sentence or word is wasted. Therefore, it is even more incredible that he says he wrote the novel without any plan.

Murakami is a sensation in Japan. The dates of his book publications are treated by his fans like movie premieres. The first print run of 1Q84 sold out on day one of publication in Japan and sold one million copies in the first month. They flocked to pre-order his book, whilst all the details were being kept tightly under wraps. It has been called ‘a global event in itself’ by a Guardian reviewer. His huge success in Japan seems comparable with J.K. Rowling’s success in the UK with the Harry Potter series. These are books that are not just read, but adored.

However, it is not only his style that makes his latest novel a work of art. Murakami dedicates each chapter to a particular character. As the book goes on, you see these characters evolve, both in terms of the progression of the story and in terms of the novel as a piece of work. His characters are completely three-dimensional and you find that it is they who drive the story along, rather than the plot, which is something that I really appreciate in fiction.

Sometimes I would get lost in a daydream and wonder what was going to happen to Tengo and Aomame next, waiting impatiently for some free time where I could continue my journey with them. That is the sign of a brilliant novel: that story that keeps you wondering what’s going to happen next, even when you’re not reading it.

Perhaps the true beauty of this piece of art is that Murakami only provides a vehicle and it is the reader who must control it and see the characters and the story through their own eyes.

Perhaps too, this review is entirely irrelevant. Some call Murakami pretentious and say he is caught up in his own success, but I would argue that 1Q84 is a novel that invites you to read and experience it, rather than analyse it. As Murakami himself writes in the book, “if you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation.”

Ultimately, this is something much bigger than a novel. It is a work that promotes complete escapism to other worlds, invites profound thinking, and encourages self-discovery.