Publication Date: April, 2008
Ratings: 4 out of 5
Summary: After Dark is a novel that takes place in a single night at a city. Three different story arcs are omnisciently narrated yet they are linked together. At the center of the story is nineteen year old Mari who decides to spend the night alone in a city instead of going home. There’s also Mari’s older sister, the beautiful Eri, who suffers from a tragic fate. Finally, there’s Shirakawa who hides a sinister side from his work and family life.
Review: Strange things happen…after dark.
After Dark was the first Japanese literature book I’ve read, and one of the two I had chosen for the Japanese Literature Challenge 3. The book blurb really didn’t say much. I felt like I was buying Chris Cleave’s Little Bee all over again. Yes, I was a little apprehensive since I was taking a risk of buying and reading a book that was out of my comfort level. But hey, wasn’t that part of the challenge?
Surprises of surprises, I loved this book! I finished it in one day. It was that good! The book had a way of pulling and holding my attention even after the book was finished. And I was done with reading, I felt like I wanted more, and it was a little ambiguous, but that’s literature fiction for you.
And the writing! Oh, the writing! I absolutely loved how Murakami used simple words and brought the story to life through personification. It was remarkable! I even have a favorite quote in the book, and that’s the character Takahashi’s motto which was, “Walk slowly. Drink lots of water,” That’s the same meaning of the cliché, “Take it one day at a time.”
The main character in this story was Mari. At first, I didn’t know what to make of her. In other words, I didn’t know if I was going to like her since she seemed so cold and unfeeling. In fact, she wasn’t. She helped a total stranger who was in need, and she showed how much she really loved her sister Eri. I would say that Mari’s more guarded because perhaps she had such cold parents who didn’t pay much attention to her, and she had a sibling rivalry with Eri.
Sometimes I thought the book was a little creepy especially when I was reading the parts on Eri because it seemed like Murakami wanted readers to believe what was happening in the story was real, but later it seemed like a dream. Or was it? It was hard to distinguish, and it wasn’t revealed what really happened to Eri until towards the ending. The mood can be dark at times, but there’s humor sprinkled here and there.
Honestly, I would have given it my highest rating, but I was hoping for a happier ending. I wanted to see if Takahashi and Mari were going to get together. Or if Mr. Shirakawa’s secret was going to be discovered. What was going to happen to Eri? Still, even if the ending was left to interpret for my imagination, I believed that After Dark was worth it. I really enjoyed it. If there was someone who will ask me if there will there be another Murakami book added to my shelf in the future? I’d tell them, “Yes! Absolutely!”
Recommendation: I think this is a nice starter if you’ve never read any Japanese literature or if you’d like to try to read something new. I don’t think I would recommend it though if you’re looking for something light and heart-warming. It’s just not that type of book. This is still a good story even though it is depressing and eerie at the same time.
This is the cover of the first US edition of After Dark. (Source: Wikipedia)