As a Modern History undergrad I had the pleasure of being taught by a wonderfully eccentric, intelligent and brilliant man. Not only were his tutorials entertaining and engaging, his feedback on assignments remain, to date, unsurpassed. One particular treasure was:
“This is a neat paper. I mean that in a tidy as well as a Brady-Bunch kind of way”. Oh Howard, how I miss thee.
These immortal words echoed through my mind as I read, After Darkness. It was a lovely novel. The premise was interesting and the writing was nice. Set in pre and post WWII Japan with Australia in the middle, After Darkness follows the education and subsequent career of a young Japanese doctor. Torn between a love for his country and the moral impetus of his Hippocratic Oath, Dr Ibaraki negotiates a harsh life interned in a POW camp in a brutal and isolated part of Australia.
The novel flashes back to Ibaraki’s life in Japan; his childhood, his first job and his marriage. These moments begin to piece together a fractured life, one that has seen sorrow, disappointment and conflict alongside joy and stilted happiness. His life in the POW camp, while harsh, is somewhat better than his counterparts due to his status as doctor. But there is a heavy blanket of melancholy that covers Ibaraki that reveals itself slowly like a lily opening up after too much water.
Ibaraki seems to have lived life on a borderland. Not quite happy, not quite sad. Not quite successful and not completely feckless. And so it is with After Darkness. It is not completely engaging in an ‘un-put-downable’ way, but it is a pleasurable journey and one worth taking.
PS rest assured, I received a Distinction average under Howard’s tutelage, Cindy Brady references and all.