READ THIS! December Review

Good Morning and Happy New Year everyone! I hope that you all had a wonderful and relaxing weekend - enjoying every moment like I did! Josh and I rang in the new year at Legal Test Kitchen on Boston's seaport with two other couples and were able to see the fireworks right from the restaurant! It was a perfect way to celebrate the end of 2011 and get excited about all of the magic that we're looking forward to in 2012. And yes, there will be lots of magic this year. Already we have a busy January planned - dinners with friends, engagements to celebrate (not ours! haha), my 5K to run this Saturday and a trip to Colorado in just 2 weeks! I cannot wait to welcome in everything this new year has to offer us. But first, I do want to wrap up last month's READ THIS! book and introduce you to January's book so you can all get started on it right away!

In case you have forgotten, or didn't get a chance to join us in reading last month, December's READ THIS! book was Haruki Marukami's 1Q84:

Set in Japan in the year 1984, Amazon describes the book as this:

"The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo. A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled. As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector. A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers."

In fact, went so far as to place this novel on their Best Books of 2011 list - at #2 - and with the description above, I don't think anyone would be surprised that raved about this novel. The novel alternates between Aomame's and Tengo's stories - chapter by chapter - as we delve further into the world of 1Q84 with them. The story itself is beautiful and Murakami presents interesting characters in a clearly thought out storyline. Unfortunately, my positive reviews of this novel pretty much end here. Tengo's storyline begins with him being asked to re-write an entry for a fiction contest due to its lack of style and organization, which is amusing because someone should have re-written Murakami's work for its lack of style and organization. I am unsure as to whether the unorganized writing and needless detail simply do not translate well from the Japanese version, or if Murakami just likes to hear himself talk (um... write?). At 925 pages, this novel could easily be reduced to at least 3/4s of that, if not completely cut in half. Parts of this novel are overly sexual - almost as if Murakami felt like he needed to add gratuitous (and extremely awkward) sex to his work in order to make it more interesting. Murakami had a great idea that simply did not translate well to his style of story telling.

While it starts off wonderfully, it does fall short of the high hopes and expectations that I had for it - especially after reading reviews comparing it to one of my all-time favorite novels, Atlas Shrugged, and a newer favorite, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. My feelings tend to fall very closely with a few of the more negative reviews and while I don't believe it was a complete waste of time - there are definitely some things to be gained from this novel - I do think that Murakami could have used a few re-writes of his own.

Now, what about you? Did you find time to read this novel this month? My brother received a copy for Christmas and I am very interested to hear his take on it. For those of you that did read it, do you agree with me? Did you find it unnecessarily wordy or were you captivated by Murakami's detailed writing? Have any of you read any of Murakami's other work? If you have - I'd love to hear from you how this compares to it! Please leave any thoughts you have on the novel in the comments for this post!

So, without any further ado, here is the first READ THIS! novel for 2012:

After 2 long novels, I thought it was time to get into a shorter, but still wonderfully received novel, and for that I picked this one, Julian Barnes' The Sense of An Ending, coming in at under 200 pages. Amazon describes this work as:

"By an acclaimed writer at the height of his powers, The Sense of an Ending extends a streak of extraordinary books that began with the best-selling Arthur & George and continued with Nothing to Be Frightened Of and, most recently, Pulse. This intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about—until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony Webster thought he’d left all this behind as he built a life for himself, and by now his marriage and family and career have fallen into an amicable divorce and retirement. But he is then presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider a variety of things he thought he’d understood all along, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world. A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single sitting, with stunning psychological and emotional depth and sophistication, The Sense of an Ending is a brilliant new chapter in Julian Barnes’s oeuvre."

It won the 2011 Man Booker Prize and I am looking forward to diving into this award winning piece of literature. Please, join me in reading this month's READ THIS! novel and, if you have a blog, please feel free to grab a READ THIS! button for your sidebar.

PS. I apologize for the late posting this morning, as you may be able to see there have been some spacial issues that I haven't been able to work out. I'll see you back here tomorrow around 10 am, as usual!



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