After Dark, by Haruki Murakami

Mari, a girl sitting in a fast-food bar is approached by a musician who engages her in conversation. Through the night, we follow what happens to Mari, the musician, and various other connected characters in the city.

Like Norwegian Wood, this was quite well written, but it didn't really do it for me, because it's got elements of surrealism/magic realism in it, and I find it hard to connect with the characters in that situation.

Mari has a sister called Eri, who is suffering from some kind of problem (unclear if it's psychological or physiological) that means she sleeps almost constantly: the narrative switches to Eri's PoV every so often as weird stuff happens to her. Well, not that weird, but a bit weird. And the conversations that Mari and other people have are not quite believable: the whole book has the aura of a dream. Which may be quite clever, and maybe there's some metaphor going on there which I missed, but I find it difficult, unless the story is rooted in some plausible reality, to get too interested.

It's not that a book has to have stuff that is literally true, but that it should have a coherence which makes it true to itself, i.e. predictable once you've worked out what the rules are. Maybe this book was coherent with its own set of rules, but I don't know how you're meant to know what those rules are: for all I could tell, it wouldn't have been inconsistent if everyone at the end of the book had started walking 3 inches off the ground, or turned into seahorses.

Actually one of the most interesting things is that both the Murakami books I've read have been lent to me by Tim as I've taken the train home, so I'm forming a pretty strong association with his writing and the ticket office at Eastleigh, where I have to wait for 25 minutes in between trains.

Completed : 07-Sep-2008

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