This is my first Kazuo Ishiguro and I am mighty impressed. The actual storyline of the book is good, but the subtle meanings are even better.
On the surface, this is the story of Axl and Beatrice, elderly Britons, trying to visit their grown son. But they, like everyone else in this land, have lost their memories and only have the vaguest recollection of their son and even their personal stories, including their shared history. So off they go on this very unclear quest and on their way, they meet up with a young boy (a Saxon), a soldier (also a Saxon), and Sir Gawain himself (a Briton). In the end, they do not find their son, but their memories are beginning to return and then Beatrice goes on a journey by herself to the island where the son lives. It turns out,
So, this book gracefully examines issues like how to deal with populations that live together, but have hated each other for generations; what is justified by war; the cleansing of the reputation of national heroes (a type of memory manipulation); the importance of memory to the human experience; and the deliverance of death. By the time I got to the end of the book, I couldn't believe how many thorny issues had been explored by this little fable and never once did I think I had been lectured to. In fact, what was interesting was how I couldn't decide the best answer to each issue. Is it preferable to lose your memory and live peacefully or retain your memory only to embrace hatred? Is the sacrifice of a innocents ever justified in order to end a war and does your answer change if the innocents belong to the group that "started it" (made me think about the discussion of the atom bombs used in WWII, but really, it's true of all wars). Should we abandon the whole concept of national heroes, even when very flawed people have done very heroic things? And is death a journey to be embraced or fought?
The more I've thought about this book, the more I've liked and admired it. Has anyone else read it? If not, please do and respond as quickly as possible.
Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Unconsoled.
I found this very fluent account of the narrator’s struggle to become orientated in a nameless town in possibly Germany to be compulsive reading. It is partly about memory loss and it recalled to me Karinthy’s Metropole,where a professor of linguistics ends up in a bustling modern city in central Europe in which nobody speaks any of the languages he knows. In The Unconsoled Mr Ryder, Ishiguro’s narrator-hero, is met with extreme politeness by hotel staff, but frustratingly he fails to get exact clarification of his mission. He is scheduled to address an audience in a small town where Mr Brodsky, a reformed alcoholic pianist has returned to perform some classical studies. Everyone in the town knows of Mr Ryder’s reputation and initially at least he receives nothing but generous plaudits wherever he goes. The reader, however, begins to doubt his sanity, since he fails to arrive for vital consultations and is easily persuaded to take on tasks for others - such as hearing Stephan, his host’s son, practice. What is almost a sub-plot involves Ryder in trying to make sense of the broken relationship between Leo Brodsky and Miss Collins. Complications multiply when we learn that Ryder’s parents are arriving to hear their son’s performance - pianistic or simply as Brodsky’s front man. Ultimately there is some doubt as to whether the Ryders senior have arrived or indeed whether they even exist within the book’s time frame.
The Unconsoled is a challenging book that deliberately frustrates its reader’s expectations. Dozens of unanswered questions are raised, many remaining unsolved at the end. Readers who like a tight plot and a tidy conclusion are unlikely to finish the book. For those who stay with it the book has many treasures and a great deal of humour - seemingly not aroused in Ryder, who incidentally has not only no parents, no wife, no son, and no first name. In place of a wife and family he becomes attached like a father to Boris, a charmingly unco-operative boy and to Sophie, the boy’s mother, a caring but frustrated picker-up of pieces dropped by her two male dependants, Ryder and Boris.
At times the book has the feel of a Lewis Carrol wonderland. Conversations mainly narrated via Ryder lead to further hints of past events; the interior becomes exterior; the unlikely is accepted as fact - when Ryder meets his old car and goes back in time to childhood for example. Some readers insist that the novel is surreal and many sequences do indeed have the floating quality of dream. We feel, Ryder feels, that we’ve been here before and there are deja vues galore. Those who seek a tidy plot should be warned that in The Unconsoled there are time breaks and time bends in this gallimaufry plunge into consciousness.
Kathy, Ruth and Tommy were pupils at Hailsham - an idyllic establishment situated deep in the English countryside. The children there were tenderly sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe they were special, and that their personal welfare was crucial. But for what reason were they really there? It is only years later that Kathy, now aged 31, finally allows herself to yield to the pull of memory. What unfolds is the haunting story of how Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, slowly come to face the truth about their seemingly happy childhoods - and about their futures. Never Let Me Go is a uniquely moving novel, charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of our lives.
RRP: £16.99, <a href ="http://www.thebookplace.com/bookplace/spring2005.asp?CID=BGO733" TARGET="_blank">The Book Pl@ce</a> Price: £15.71
Just click on book jacket
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When We Were Orphans - Kazuo Ishiguro - 2000
Leese 28th April 2006 09:52 AM
When We Were Orphans
I did search for another thread on this book, but didn't turn anything up. Apologies if i'm repeating.
OK, so I've just finished this book, and after eagerly anticipating it for a while, it turned out to be a huge let-down. I think I stated somewhere on another thread that KI is one of my fall-backs when I'm not getting on with anything else, so this was a major disappointment to me.
I finished this up on the train yesterday and made some notes on the laptop as I was going along, so here's what I liked/didn't like about it. Some if it may get very rant-ish and incoherant (I'm doing nightshifts, 'nuff said), so apologies in advance.
So, generally, a big thumbs down, which really surprised me. For those of you who have tried KI and been put off by this - I'd say it's *not* a good representation of how good he can be.
It's not often that a book annoys me enough to pick out every little thing that's off. Maybe I was just so disappointed in it, given my like of his other work, that I felt it necessary. As I also said on another thread somewhere, I don't follow awards, but I'm wondering how the hell this managed to get nominated for a Booker (or whichever). I hope to god it didn't win?!
donnae 28th April 2006 10:43 AM
:thinking:Oh dear, this is my next book to read. I really enjoyed Never Let Me Go, and have heard good things about this one until now.
I hope I enjoy it more than you did Leese. I didn't read your spoiler, so I will keep an open mind about it.
Leese 28th April 2006 01:34 PM
Maybe I missed the point, but it just came across as ridiculous to me. I can be hugely pedantic about this sort of stuff - it may be "me". I also have a really big problem with too much suspension of disbelief, which is probably why I never read sci-fi or watch most movies and/or Sky One shows
I do think everyone takes away something different from a book, though.
I haven't read Never Let Me Go yet, it's on my list to borrow soon (a friend has it) - I've flicked through the first couple of chapters and been impressed.
I dunno - give it a whirl, you may get more out of it than I did, and it's certainly not all bad.
I bet Devon is nice today - I miss it on sunny days like this!
donnae 28th April 2006 04:07 PM
I would highly recommend Never let me go. I have found that thoughts keep popping up in my head about it, on the basis of this, I am still keen to give W.W.W.O a try.
Weather has been Ok today, a little bit overcast. Yesterday was glorious....the sort of day that I realise why we moved here .