The Dark Maidens / Girls in the Dark

When I write articles, I want my audience to come out with something relevant by the time they get to the end. Otherwise, I feel like I wasted their time: a precious commodity which, at least for myself, is decreasing at a gradual rate. It’s for that reason I hate to gush about a subject for the sake of it. This time though, you’ll have to forgive me. The only message I can muster is that you should buy a copy and immerse yourself in the writing of a brilliant author. 

The topic today is The Dark Maidens, otherwise known as Girls in the Dark, a novel by Rikako Akiyoshi. 

**I’ll be careful not to spoil anything.

Stumbling around on the second floor of a bookstore, I aimlessly picked books out and read their synopses and beginning pages. It was only by chance that I stumbled upon a pair of novels with a black spine. They were the only two copies in the entire store on the highest shelf no less. Printed on them was the title: The Dark Maidens

Its synopsis is as follows:

“At a prestigious girls’ school, a student has died. Itsumi was the most beautiful, charismatic, and popular girl at St. Mary’s Academy for Girls. She was also the president of the exclusive and tight-knit Literature Club. One week after her death, the members of her beloved club gather in her memory. But as they each testify to what happened in the days leading up to the tragic event, their accusations turn shocking-

Why, and how, did Itsumi really die?

In this glittering and gripping murder mystery, everyone has their own motivations and version of the truth. In its portrayal of the alliances, treacheries, and invisible tensions between friends and frenemies, The Dark Maidens keeps readers guessing and shows that what is sweet can just as easily be poisonous.”

The writing continued, detailing who Rikako Akiyoshi was as an author: degree attainment, other works, awards, and the adaptation of The Dark Maidens to film. 

The synopsis undoubtedly worked as a hook for me. Although, I am and have always been a fan of mystery so there is some bias involved. Nevertheless, I believe it would still pique the interest of others given the setting, suspects highlighted, and style of writing.

Finished with the synopsis, I moved on to the content. Oh, how quickly I was whisked away. Its very first page had, in a sense I’ve never experienced before, immersed me in the world. It was as if the author and character speaking had merged; incarnating the setting and welcoming me to the Literature Club. Indeed, from that first page, my mind was made up to buy the novel.

I said I wouldn’t spoil anything which makes it very difficult to explain my love. Let me expound on what the synopsis briefly touched on then and go from there: the style of the entire novel.

The novel is written in Rashomon-style. This style depicts an event from the perspective of multiple characters. What this means for the novel is that the accounts referenced in the synopsis are able to be explored in full, and gloriously subjective, detail. It becomes even more flavorful when the chapters of the novel are the stories written by the club members. The reader can then match up timelines, point out inconsistencies, mark the gaps in recounts; all exactly as you’d want from a mystery novel. 

Even still, this in itself isn’t avant-garde. Many mystery novels have, to my knowledge, done this in the past. What marks it as brilliant to me is the particular style of each account. Each student’s personality is uniquely conveyed through word choice and distinct literary devices. Neither the story written by them nor the one they recall is exactly alike. This where Rikako Akiyoshi takes the crown. Representing unique character personalities alone is a difficult task for some writers, myself included. Yet, she did more than that. I’d posit that if you gave her the task of talking about the mundane from each character’s perspective, you would be able to tell who was speaking.

The chimes of Sayuri, the effective narrator of the book who closes each chapter, also was wonderfully done; reflecting the mind of the reader and asking questions which spark relevant curiosity. Sayuri was a favorite of mine, always waiting to hear her comments on the story presented. 

This was the first story I’ve read by Rikako Akiyoshi and I’m more than interested in reading more. In fact, I may just pick up every story written by her; a testament to how enamored I was by the writing. After all, Christmas is nearly upon us. What could be a better gift? In the meantime, I’ll be rereading The Dark Maidens and mulling upon the fact that there were only two copies at the bookstore. Also, I have to see about that movie adaptation. Hopefully it’s just as good as the novel.

If you’re even remotely interested, please consider buying the novel as a gift to yourself or another. I’m sure it won’t disappoint.

Here’s an Amazon link.

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