This is the hour when the mysteries emerge

1Q84 (Book Three)

Haruki Murakami

Vintage, 9780099559055, £7.99

Phew. Beautiful. Beautifully layered, beautifully plotted, beautifully written and with an ending that is redemptive, not-quite-closed and satisfying. Satisfyingly pleasing in that it contains a certain amount of happiness and a happy amount of uncertainty.

The first two thirds took me over a week to read. I couldn’t cope with more than two chapters per reading session. Partly this was my own troubled state of mind. The un-nerving of reality in the novel exacerbated certain disturbances in my own relational equilibrium. There was a bleakness about the book, an impending dread, a force of dark inevitability that cut me open and left me feeling raw and chilled and upset. The two main characters, who had not met for over twenty years, seemed fated never to coalesce, although it seemed quite possible that they might collide with horrendous consequences. A previously minor character, a misshapen add-on in the former two volumes, becomes the third line in a triangle, seemingly drawing the plot to a point, a peak, a jagged cliff from which there might be no survival.

Then I raced through the final third of book three in a morning, breathless and with heart palpitating at the potential the plot still held to swing in a myriad different directions, some dark, some lighter. The ending was more-or-less all that I could have hoped for, what I wished for. But it didn’t have to be that way. Many things were not fully explained. Many events, some characters were not explained at all. The enigmatic, time-shifting, reality-shifting was left to find its own order in my mind. If I could work it out and be happy in Murakami’s world(s) then fine – if not, well, that was fine also, if disorientating .

Whether it was simply my heightened cognisance of Murakami’s themes and drivers or whether he was inserting a new strand I’m not sure, but this novel included a great deal more, shall we say, God-consciousness, or spirituality, than I’ve previously detected. In the past I would have said that he was a novelist who acted as a divine creator, inspiring not just characters and other organisms into breathe, but also whole extremely plausible worlds. Here themes latent in the early two volumes of this trilogy were raised to the fore and the divine itself seemed to stand behind the author and beyond his total creative comprehension. The antagonists in this story, the baddies, if you will, were a religious organisation and the Little People, the unseen hands behind the action, may well have been of angelic stock – whether fallen or heaven sent was left ambiguous. One of the characters is partially defined by a prayer that she repeats throughout the books. She eventually comes to a recognition of the possibility of God despite the horror of an upbringing in a strict, isolationist and apocalyptic Christian sect. Then there is the whole issue of her issue – her conceiving a child without her own sexual activity – a not quite parthenogenesis – and the resulting escape with her newly found partner, a flight into Egypt away from the dubious attentions of the antagonists.

Messianic musings may only be a minor theme in Murakami’s world of the two moons, but the ending, the escape the two lead characters back into a reality with a single moon (which is not necessarily the mono-lunar reality we started in), deliciously ratifies a presiding spirit of love lost and found, love against the odds, love that spans decades, that lives in hope, that crosses barriers of the unknown, that turns simple childish gestures into matters of great significance and which almost literally moves the spheres. In some ways this is surprisingly conventional for Murakami, yet it is deeply satisfying and closes the books with an elegiac and elemental sense that an epic conflict has been fought out in the worlds of Orwell’s Big Brother and with divine nudging the individual has triumphed.

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