Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Pale View of Hills, by Kazuo Ishiguro

I received this book as a gift, and I have looked forward to reading it. I saved it on purpose to read in the new year.

This is only the seocnd book by Ishiguro that I have read, the first being Never Let me Go. There is a quality in both books that is the same--a sort of unreliable narrator who tells the story of both past and present at the same time, switching back and forth and drawing the two threads closer and closer, until...

Well, until you realize that the narrator IS unreliable, and there are enormous pieces of the story that do not fit neatly together. In fact, the threads of the narrative in this story are left dangling. I am not sure exactly whether it is the story of one woman, or three, or if all three of the woman in the story are the same woman. Or if, perhaps, there were two women.

A Pale View of Hills is narrated by the central character, Etsuko, a Japanese woman who lives in England. In the present, she is enjoying a visit from one daughter, while mourning the recent suicide of her other, troubled daughter. At the same time, she is recalling and reliving events from her life in post-war Japan. This is a quiet sort of story, with what I think of as a Japanese quality of keeping the emotions carefully controlled on the surface, no matter what is going on inside.

As the narrative draws to the end, we are left completely baffled about what parts of the story are true. I would have to read the whole book over again to see if there are any clues that I missed, that might give a hint toward the answer. However, I cannot read the book over again and receive the same impact that the sudden realization that I have been led astray gave me the first time. That sudden jolt seems to be the point of the entire book.

So, I plan to leave it for now. I continue to be intrigued by Ishiguro as an author, and I will certainly read more of his work as the opportunity arises.


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