I found After Dark by Haruki Murakami on the “Buy One, Get One Half Off” table at Borders and flipped through it. I was instantly intrigued by the idea of following what happened in the hours between twilight and dawn in Japan; a reference to a late-night trip to Denny’s in the opening pages hooked me (reminded me of some of my favorite high school memories). The story follows two sisters, Mari and Eri, through the night. One, Mari, is unable to sleep and has decided to spend the night in the city instead of at home. Eri, on the other hand, cannot wake up. She went to sleep one day and has essentially slept for two months, waking only occasionally to eat and shower. The story peeks in on her as she sleeps, noting the slight but sinister changes to the room in every visit. Most of the story revolves around Mari and the people she meets during the night: an old acquaintance of Eri’s, Tetsuya Takahashi; the owner of a “love hotel,” Kaoru; a Chinese prostitute who is beaten at the hotel; and an employee of the hotel, Korogi. The story also peeks in on a man named Shirakawa, who is responsible for the beating the prostitute received. The story ends as the sun rises and the city comes back to life.
This is the first Murakami I read, though I’ve owned The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for a few months. It won’t be my last Murakami, that’s for sure. One of the things that struck me about the book was the sheer loneliness of the characters. Even when they were with other people, they all just seemed so alone. And while that could have made the book incredibly depressing, it wasn’t depressing at all. Though I could hardly relate to the specific circumstances of the novel, I still felt a sense of “I’ve been there” as I read. There’s a disconnect between the narrator and the loneliness. This is due in part to the fact that the narrator is not only omniscient, he’s almost birdlike, floating in to each scene from above. And there were moments that were humorous, giving the novel a sense of lightness.
I really enjoyed it, and I won’t hesitate to read anything by Murakami in the future. I highly recommend this novel.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Publisher, ISBN: Vintage International, 9780307278739
888 Category: To Be Read
Also Reviewed at: Ramya’s Bookshelf