I’ve been eying this one up for a good time too. The title alone caught my attention since I’m a night animal myself. I’m at page 181 of 244, I’m not sure what to say and I mean that in a good way. I could probably gather my thoughts properly if I wrote after reading it but I’m trying to do like an in-between kind of thing.
At its center are two sisters—Eri, a fashion model slumbering her way into oblivion, and Mari, a young student soon led from solitary reading at an anonymous Denny’s toward people whose lives are radically alien to her own: a jazz trombonist who claims they’ve met before, a burly female “love hotel” manager and her maid staff, and a Chinese prostitute savagely brutalized by a businessman. These “night people” are haunted by secrets and needs that draw them together more powerfully than the differing circumstances that might keep them apart, and it soon becomes clear that Eri’s slumber—mysteriously tied to the businessman plagued by the mark of his crime—will either restore or annihilate her.
After Dark moves from mesmerizing drama to metaphysical speculation, interweaving time and space as well as memory and perspective into a seamless exploration of human agency—the interplay between self-expression and empathy, between the power of observation and the scope of compassion and love. Murakami’s trademark humor, psychological insight, and grasp of spirit and morality are here distilled with an extraordinary, harmonious mastery.
It’s not a fast paced read, it’s more conversation, observations, weirdness, marred by an assault, where night people meet other night people. We, the-eye-in-the-sky, so to speak, get this striking view. It is eventually made clear to us how each of these people are connected to each other, good stuff. It’s like an intricate structure of a spiderweb whose delicate woven strands link in segmented junctions, when you stand back you see the order in what at first appeared to be a random arrangement of silken lines. Now picture that spiderweb with tiny dewdrops clinging damply, under the amber scrutiny of a street light while a sickle moon watches over it all in quiet reverie to the muted meowing of kittens in a secluded park. It’s beautiful in it’s complexity of plot.
The prose is uncluttered and effective. The mystery of Eri Asai’s situation is mind-boggling, there’s nothing there to give you a fair chance of speculation, or I’m just not seeing it. Mari’s and Takahashi’s side of the night is my favourite though. Like I said, it’s slow going but I have no problems with that for it’s a book that needs to be read carefully, one that must be savoured to be appreciated. The funny thing? I find that it only feel right when I’m reading After Dark during the wee hours of the night/morning! I can see myself returning to this time and time again.