Tuesday, August 25, 2009

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Publisher: First Vintage International
Publication Date: April, 2008
Pages: 256
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. The ending 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)


  1. What a wonderful review Helen! I have now added this to my TBR pile! :D! I really like these challenges because some of them makes us look to reading things we don't usually read, but our tastes are similar so I know I will enjoy this too!

    Will have to email and catch up!!!!
    Take care,

  2. Thanks, Suzanne. As for the challenges, I felt the same way when I joined the Classics Challenge because I was reading out of my comfort zone. Just like I can't get enough of the Classics, the same is true with Japanese Literature. That is such a pleasant surprise!

    And...yes, we will have to email sometime. :)

  3. What a great review! You touched on the complexity and joy of Murakami, which are so interwoven in my opinion. I find so much darkness (loss of hope?) in Japanese literature that I kind of forget it as a theme. But, it's certainly there in so many novels! I wish I had more definitive anwswers, too, but I think Murakami means us to puzzle them out on our own. I'm so glad you liked your foray into this genre!

  4. It looks interesting! I tried reading one of his novels and just couldn't get into it. My bf loves his works though and has read most of them. Then again, both him and I have very different tastes in books :)

  5. Nice review. You've got me intrigued. I may add this to my to-read list. :)

  6. I think it's great that you've enjoyed this book. I've got it as the next book to read for this challenge. I'm reading Sputnik Sweetheart by Murakami at the moment.

    You're right about Murakami's use of simple words. In fact, that's one of the things I like best about his writing.

    Thanks for the great review.


  7. Hi, Bellezza. I am a sucker for happy endings, so I'd like to think that what happened to Mari and Takahashi is a good one. :) I'm glad that I joined this challenge because I'm enjoying it.

  8. Hi, okbolover. The book really was interesting. It was a little odd but not enough for me to be turned off. I've never read any of his works, but I'd like to read more after this.

  9. Hi, Mary. Thank you for dropping by. I've checked out your book blog. Looks great! are you Filipino, by chance? I saw your other blog called Halo-halo Mix. I love the title as much as the desert as well. :D

  10. Hello, Michelle. I hope you will enjoy After Dark as much as I did. I can't wait to hear what you think about Sputnik Sweetheart since now I'm interested to read other Murakami works.

  11. I am new to your blog.: )

    Helen, I enjoyed reading your post about this book. I've heard so much about this author and know I will eventually read his work. I have other books picked out for the JLC-3 but will probably add this to my TBR stack. Thanks for a well-written review!

  12. Hi, Suko! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you will enjoy your books for the JLC-3. Good luck.

  13. One of my favorite books. I loved all the unspoken things that are only hinted at. I found it gave more depth to the story. Nice review!

  14. Hi, there, bookbirddog. Thank you for visiting. Sometimes it is nice to read something that's a little abstract. It makes the readers think more about the story instead of having it spelled out in front of them.

  15. Ooh great review! I've read a couple of Murakami books and have really liked them so now I've thought of maybe this one or A Wild Sheep Chase for the Japanese Reading challenge. I'm sure I can't go wrong with another of his books :)

  16. Thanks for the heads up, Iliana. I'm excited to read more Murakami now! :)

  17. I listened to the audio version of this book and liked it...very different. I need to read more by him.

  18. How the story was written sounds really interesting to me, but the story its self, just doesn't seem to be "me". Although I do want to explore a little more in the Japanese literature. Thanks for the good review. Also came by to tell you I have an awared waiting for you at my blog http://juliebooks.blogspot.com/2009/09/award.html

    and to wish you a happy long weekend.

  19. Hi, Diane. I bet that audio book did sound interesting. I'd be creeped out a little if I heard Eri's scenes.

    Jules, thanks for the award!

  20. Your review makes me want to go back and read the book again to look for some things I may have missed in the writing! I just reposted my 2007 review of After Dark.