IQ84

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

After last week’s review of the short story collection The Elephant Vanishes, I was left with wanting more of the Japanese author Haruki Murukami. Therefore today’s review will be on Murukami’s epic trilogy, available as one volume from Vintage Press for a very affordable price, titled IQ84.

This trilogy, originally released in 2009-2010, is Murukami’s most substantial work- it’s “the big one” for fans of his novels. It contains all the traits that his fans will love- a realistic storyline for adult readers that delves into elements of fantasy and science fiction, but it’s interwoven so neatly into the naturalistic tale that you barely notice.

The story is told in third person viewpoint, alternating chapters between the two central characters point of view: Aomame and Tengo. Aomame lives in the city, working as a fitness class instructor, however uses her “special talents” to do some dark undercover work for a wealthy benefactor. She is a loner by nature and lives life by her own moral sense of justice. Tengo, a child maths prodigy, about to turn 30, is teaching at a cram school and writing fiction in his spare time. He is also a solitary figure, whose contacts consist of a married woman he sees once a week and his literary agent. Tengo’s life becomes complicated when he agrees to being an anonymous ghost writer on a piece of fiction, that is perhaps not entirely fictitious, called Air Chrysalis, which brings significant social and political consequences. Aomame’s life becomes more complicated when she notices there are two moons in the sky instead of one. Slowly but steadily Aomame and Tengo are drawn further and further into danger and confusion, and towards each other.

This story is intriguing and slowly but steadily draws you in. The pacing is superb and Murukami is an expert at taking the normal and flipping it on its head within a second, and then back again like nothing has happened! Whilst the story is long, it never felt that way. The two central characters are perhaps not very relatable, but you like them and want them to succeed. You get to know the pair incredibly well throughout the course of the trilogy, and they are complex and interesting characters; with backgrounds that are explored thoroughly, giving the reader a sense of who they are and why this is so.

Some of Murukami’s novels are loose in structure and very basic in plot, however this novel has a tight structure and plotline, which will make it an appealing read for those who prefer a more focussed story.

This book is not suitable for children, and readers should know it includes sexual themes, themes of domestic violence, and violence in general.

I would recommend this novel to any adult reader, whether they are new to Murukami’s work, or are already fans of this unique author. IQ84 would be a great start if you haven’t read Murukami before.

 

Please let us know what you think below! Comments are always welcome!

Also, you will see some changes coming to the blog over the next few weeks that I hope you enjoy!

 

Happy Reading and thanks for joining us at TBBC!

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The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murukami

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we return to one of my favourite authors, Japanese writer Haruki Murukami. We will be looking at his collection of short stories, originally released in 1993, titled The Elephant Vanishes.

The Elephant Vanishes is a medium sized volume of 17 short stories, each one unique and bizarre, where realism meets with elements of fantasy, science fiction and dream-like qualities. Each story will take you to an alternate version of reality where things are very much as you expect, but always with a twist of the unnatural.

Amongst the stories included are Barn Burning, where a man at a party makes an odd confession to his passion for starting barn fires; The Last Lawn of the Afternoon, where a casual gardener mows his last lawn before retirement from the business; and TV people, where a young man, relaxing on his couch, is confronted with little people walking out of his television. My personal favourite was Sleep, a tale where a married woman discovers one day that she no longer needs to sleep, and is given the freedom to live a second life at night. This is something I’ve often thought about (“Imagine what I could do with all that time!”) so I was intrigued by the concept, and the ending to this one had a big impact.

If you are yet to read Murukami, and he is on your list, then I recommend starting with one of his novels and leaving The Elephant Vanishes for afterwards. Whilst I enjoyed the short stories immensely, I think Murukami is much stronger as a novelist, as his stories require space and go along at a meandering pace that is much better suited to a longer style.

If you are a fan of Murukami, then of course this is worth a read. You will recognize subtle references and characters that link with some of his novels. You will, however, probably be left with wanting more, as the stories tend to fly by!

For those who love short stories, I also recommend picking up this volume. You will easily read the whole thing in the space of a day or two, and his short stories have gained international recognition, one of which was printed in The New Yorker.

Have you read The Elephant Vanishes? Which story did you enjoy? Please leave a comment below!

 

Happy Reading and thank you for joining us at TBBC!

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at a classic, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

Madame Bovary was written in 1856, and it was the debut work of the French writer. A quick Wikipedia search tells me it was viewed to be so obscene at the time, due to its raunchy sexual references and adulterous themes, that the writer went to trial over it. He thankfully won, and of course, given the scandal it caused, it went on to become a best seller. Somewhat like a very, very old school 50 Shades of Grey situation, everyone just had to read it to see what all the fuss was about.

The story follows the life of Emma, a young woman who is a romantic and a dreamer. She lives an isolated life in the country, and longs for Paris and big city excitement. She desires to be swept off her feet and live a life of luxury. The reality of her situation is that she has chosen the wrong man to marry; a quiet country doctor named Charles, whom she finds boring. She tries to resolve her life’s frustrations by pursuing various extramarital affairs, and doing the 1856 version of spending up big on her credit card, by getting into debt with a local sales merchant.

I enjoyed this book. As far as classics go, it was an easy read and not too long. The story follows a few threads but very closely. You feel you understand the characters very well, what motivates them, and how their past affects the people that they are now. It was realistic- it gave a real sense of the freedoms and restrictions on people, particularly women, at the time. At times I found myself looking down on Emma’s choices, but I never lost a sense of compassion for her, as Gustave demonstrates the lack of liberties available to people at the time.

There are some things to consider though before reading this book:

First of all, if you are keen on this book for some adult content, I suggest you look elsewhere. Certainly in the modern context, this book is far from scandalous. I believe its most assertive reference to some sexy time is something along the lines of “the carriage swayed heartily” and that’s about it.

Also, I’m certain that the only way for Gustave to get away with publishing the saucy content he was writing, was for their to be a strong moral message within the story. I found that the book did read as a large lesson, a ‘what not to do in marriage’ morality tale, that came off a little heavy handed in 2017. It leaves you with no doubt whatsoever what the moral of the story is, and it is somewhat depressing!

Overall, I think this book is worth the read as it is a tightly written, realistic tale of a frustrated marriage. It leaves a clear impression and will stand alone in your memory as a unique classic. If you don’t enjoy themes of marriage and relationships however, it is one to miss.

Have you read it? What did you think? Please leave your comments below.

Thank you for joining us at TBBC. Happy Reading!