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A Pale View of Hills: Kazuo Ishiguro

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In other words, before Keiko is born there are worries about her, and Mariko is a kind of harbinger of the troubles to come with Keiko. Even if I have all the author's works in my bookshelves, I still always pick first his most famous work. This short novel is an easy and, at times, intriguing read, with Ishiguro sometimes making insightful points about Japanese culture and the effect of the passage of time on his characters. but I won’t dwell on that here – I don’t want to spoil the fun 🙂 All I will say is that A Pale View of Hills is an excellent first novel, a debut with all the hallmarks of Ishiguro’s later work.

She is very black and white about things, in the way people are while young and still experiencing life as a challenge to be conquered, rather than as an existence to make peace with. He complains to Etsuko and Jiro that things have changed too much in Japan after the American occupiers have forced democracy on the country. I didn’t really catch on to the narrative trick of this, Ishiguro’s first published novel, until near the end. Both women decide (have decided) to leave Japan for a western country, taking their daughters with them, hoping that this decision will be best for their daughters, but, probably knowing in their hearts that it will not be.Ishiguro masterfully accomplished that sense of being removed from your memories, as the person who you were when you created them, is not the person you are today - having a nuanced painful understanding of your own mistakes, things that you would do differently if you had another chance for redemption, questioning all of your life choices in the dawn of tragedy.

Here, late in the book, is her admission of guilt: “I knew all along she wouldn’t be happy over here. I’ve only read The Remains of the Day (long ago so I don’t remember my feelings at all) and Never Let Me Go (very unsettling). Her feelings toward the uncle are likely the same as Etsuko felt about her first husband: “It was nice of him to have invited me into his household. Was Etsuko strongly attached to her British husband, with whom she lived in England for some twenty years?

We can imply from it that the characters are full of regret, we can assume, but he does not state it anywhere: he doesn’t need to.

His eight previous works of fiction have earned him many honors around the world, including the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Booker Prize. That’s an implicit question behind everything going on in Nagasaki at the time this novel is set: some five to seven years after the war. This is another Ishiguro story (his debut) full of mystery and questions, what’s happening and what is at the heart of the matter?Etsuko's memories appear lucid, but Ishiguro's skill at making his readers question an apparently stable character's reliability has never been bettered, in my opinion, since this, his debut novel. Ishiguro never lingers on the horrors of the war and its aftermath, but it's so apparent in every page. The two women are very different, and you sense Etsuko isn’t quite as nonchalant about Sachiko’s lifestyle, and her dating an American, as she appears. If there was a mystery somewhere in the novel’s midst, then it was not sufficiently elaborated upon or given sufficient space to breathe for the reader to really care; and, if there was no real mystery, then the point of the novel is partly lost.

Keiko—we learn this late in the narrative—had lived with her Japanese father Jiro for the first seven years of her life, and we presume that she was attached to him. Now living in England in the early 1980s, Etsuko makes believe her way through a retelling of one summer in Nagasaki. Etsuko and her husband Jiro live east of Nagasaki, in newly-built concrete block apartments adjoining “an expanse of wasteground, several acres of dried mud and ditches.Many readers will begin to feel uncomfortable, wishing they’d just stop, and the pressure often builds slowly until something has to give. Ishiguro seems to have wrapped his story in too many layers of subtlety, thereby forcing his readers to make a giant leap forward in terms of imagination so that they finally decide to start unwrapping the unwrappable. We hadn't experienced the war years, but we'd at least been brought up by parents whose lives had been indelibly shaped by them. Japan, and its people, emerge as resilient and resourceful while struggling to retain old traditions and ways of life.

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