I feel like this is the first Murakami that I kind of “get” from a literary standpoint (but hey, I could still be “wrong”) This is also the first one I have read that lies more in reality than in fantasy, but there are of course those magical realism elements that Haruki Murakami is known for. The clock strikes midnight and many different things are happening. Mari is reading a book at Denny’s, Takahashi is getting ready to practice with his band, a Chinese prostitute is being beaten up by her John, and Mari’s sister, Eri, is waking up after two months of being asleep.
After Dark is extremely atmospheric. I would say that Muramaki is good at writing atmosphere in general, but in After Dark he nails it. Of course it helps that he uses one of my favorite settings– a city at night. The night feels mysterious, ominous, and beautiful. I could easily imagine everything from the empty, oppressive darkness of Eri’s bedroom to the gradual slowing of commuter traffic as the night deepens. The sights, sounds, and smells of the settings ooze from the pages. It is just so immersive. Besides atmosphere there is an obvious theme of parallels and duality throughout the novel. This realization didn’t hit me until near the end and it made me want to reread everything and pinpoint each relationship between the characters and the events. There is a lot of mystery left when the novel comes to a close, but somehow everything also wraps up nicely when you think in terms of parallels.
The time is posted at the top of each chapter (and page in my edition) so the book also goes very quickly. I kept wanting to read more since each chapter only had a few minutes pass by. The book only has 201 pages so this partnered with the time stamps made for an incredibly quick and addictive read. I might suggest starting with After Dark if you’ve never read a Murakami book before. It isn’t nearly as surreal as the other novels of his I have read, but it showcases his talents in a quick read.