After Dark by Haruki Murakami was the last book I needed to read to complete the Orbis Terrarum Challenge - yay me!
My friend over at Thyme for Tea has also read this one and recommended it to me. This book is definitely a different reading choice for me - I tend to stay grounded very firmly in the "real" world - not reading very much fantasy/science fiction type novels and certainly not branching out into surreal worlds such as the one where Murakami takes you in this novel. Having said that, I didn't actually find reading this book such a struggle in the end - the writing is conversational and easy to follow (even if the plot wanders a little).
The main story in After Dark seems to be the relationship between two sisters, Mari and Eri. Mari is spending the night in the city - she claims she is not tired and we find out that she has reasons for not wanting to return home that night. Eri is Mari's older and more beautiful sister, she has been in a deep, sleeping beauty like sleep for two months now and Mari fears that Eri does not want to ever wake up.
Other characters enter the worlds of Mari and Eri throughout the story, probably the most likeable being the musician and budding law student, Takahashi who supports Mari at various stages throughout the long night and encourages her to talk about herself.
This book is surreal - TV's coming on for no particular reason, the narrator being able to swap views seemingly at will - but I actually didn't find it all that far removed from reality at the end - I was able to focus on the human emotion without getting caught up in the surreal elements, or at least not letting them distract me too much. I'm not sure if that is how you are supposed to read a Murakami book but it allowed me to enjoy the novel so I guess it can't be a bad thing!