After Dark

Haruki Murakami

“Unimpeded by other schemes, this hint of things to come takes time to expand in the new morning light, and we attempt to watch it unobtrusively, with deep concentration. The night has begun to open up at last. There will be time until the next darkness arrives.”

I decided to read this book after seeing it in an independent bookshop that invites its customers to post short reviews (on sticky-notes) on books. This novel had several excellent reviews attached to it and, when I picked it up, I thought the synopsis sounded intriguing because the entire story takes place over the course of one night. Unfortunately, this novel didn’t live up to the expectations set by those cute sticky-note reviews.

In this novel, a girl in her late teens, Mari, is at Denny’s alone in the middle of the night, reading. A boy about her age (Tetsuya) comes in and recognizes her as his friend’s sister. He sits down and the two get to talking. Over the course of the night, their stories entwine and we find Mari tangled up in a complex web of underground music, love motels and criminals.

It took me a long time to get into this book. I think the novel was a bit heavy on surrealism to suit my taste. The plot seemed over the top – excessively fantastic – to me. It wasn’t really believable and, while reading the story, I felt like it was trying a too hard to be exciting. I was expecting more of a calm plot: the experience of being alone in the city at night. This book’s dreamlike style didn’t do it for me.

The sub-plot of Mari’s sister, Eri, was initially intriguing but I got irritated that we never really learn anything more about the situation than what is presented when we first meet her. I won’t say anything to ruin the story, but I will say I lost interest in seeing the same scene again and again without anything new being revealed. Maybe it was supposed to be suspenseful, but it didn’t really come across that way to me.

While this story does only cover the period of one night, I think there could have been a lot more character development throughout in the story. We don’t learn much about Mari even with the questions Tetsuya asks her while their friendship develops over the course of the night. We also don’t learn much about Tetsuya himself, about Kaoru, (who works at the love motel), about the businessman who visits the motel and injures a young woman or, like I mentioned earlier, about Mari’s sister. I think I would have liked this story better if it had been a little less plot driven and more character driven; especially since it takes place at night when everything seems a bit more magical even without any added surrealism.

Overall I really like the idea of this book but I wanted to like the story more than I actually did. This was a great idea that wasn’t executed in the way I was expecting and, for that reason, it did not really speak to me.

Story: 5/10

Writing: 7/10

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