Category Archives: Kazuo Ishiguro

A Pale View of Hills – Kazuo Ishiguro

After asking the question ‘why don’t men read books by women’ the other day I suddenly realised that I had been reading lots of novels by female authors and not a lot by men. I decided that it was time to rectify this, but which male author to choose. I plumped for Kazuo Ishiguro and his debut novel ‘A Pale View of Hills’ in the end. Having read two novels by Ishiguro in the past, one ‘An Artist of the Floating World’ (read pre-blog) which I didn’t like so much and the other ‘Never Let Me Go’ which I adored, I was intrigued to see where his first book would land, would I love it or be left feeling rather nonchalant about it?

‘A Pale View of Hills’ opens in England as Etsuko’s second daughter Niki comes to stay with her mother after the suicide of her older half sister Keiko. A small incident which seems like nothing to anyone but Etsuko finds her looking back at her life in Japan before she moved away and a brief friendship, of sorts, which she had with another woman Sachiko. Through almost dual narratives a rather eerie set of stories starts to come to light. In the present we watch as Niki and her mother start to become fearful and uneasy of her Keiko’s bedroom which could be grief or could it be something more? In Etsuko’s past we find not only a post war and recovering Nagasaki as the occupation looks like it might end, but the mysterious nature of her acquaintance Sachiko.

It’s interesting to see someone revealing not one but two past lives and both have a certain mystery about them. Why in the modern day did Keiko kill herself and why don’t either her mother, who when people ask says her eldest daughter is fine not dead, or sister, who never went to her own sister’s funeral because ‘she always made me feel miserable’, deal with it and almost deny it happened? In the past we not only have what is a time of great change, which through Etsuko’s first husband Jiro and his father, not only for the people and place (both amazingly depicted by Ishiguro) but for Etsuko herself who is carrying her first child. There is also the great mystery of who the woman from across the river is and why she wants Sachiko’s daughter Mariko to follow her into the woods?

I am worried I have made it sound like a book that covers too much and doesn’t know where it’s going and this is far from the case. Ishiguro masterfully, and it should be noted in under 200 pages, makes these narratives weave together (obviously they are both Etsuko’s life but its more than just that) and then takes a few twists and turns that will have the reader speeding through the last few pages completely gripped before leaving the reader with much to think about and ponder after its conclusion. It is an effect that would leave you rather unsatisfied if you weren’t reading a book that leaves you wanting to guess and wanting to figure out the final pieces of this book equivalent of a jigsaw.

I found the women in the book fascinating, in particular Sachiko, who is a very strange and enigmatic woman who teases Etsuko with slight visions into her life but never giving anything away too much or contradicting anything that does. My only slight criticism would be the men. I did find the chapters with Etsuko’s husband and father in law slowed the book down a little, for example one particular chess game and its minimal need in the book became a little dull, yet without them and seeing things through their eyes a changing nation wouldn’t have been so easy to capture I don’t think. The women did really live and breath for me, and how Ishiguro did that whilst making them incredibly disarming with their secrecy I don’t know.

I really enjoyed ‘A Pale View of Hills’. It picked me up, carried me off and then left me wanting more and also really thinking about it long after I had put it down. It wasn’t the spooky tale I initially thought it might be but I was pleased with the new direction it took. I liked the aspect that there were mysteries that Ishiguro leaves rather inconclusive clues (I think that is right) to the reader through out and then leaves you to make your own mind up about what they might mean. He trusts his readers and seems want you to do some of the work yourself and that to me really appealed. It’s not going to be a book everyone loves, its one I would recommend they give a try though. 8/10

This book was kindly given to me by the publishers.

Who else has read this book and what did you think? What did you make of the ending (though if you want to discuss it please mention it could be a spoiler in the comments)? What other Ishiguro books have you read, and which one would you recommend I try next?



Filed under Kazuo Ishiguro, Review

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

I’ve been mulling all things Savidge Reads and blog orientated of late and in doing so, though I haven’t quite finished, have decided that over the forthcoming months much more whim reading and pulling from the shelves and out of the boxes of my mighty TBR is going to be going on. I will still be doing reviews of the latest releases but after my small strop-of-sorts I want to go back to the days when I read what I wanted because I fancied it. ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro was a book that I decided three weeks ago I really fancied reading despite the fact I have struggled with Ishiguro before  and the fact that Granny Savidge simply said ‘well… many people loved it, I wasn’t one’ which actually made me giggle.

I happily admit that before I started ‘Never Let Me Go’ I had absolutely no idea what the plot would be. I have recently given up reading blurbs of books I am imminently due to read (it actually makes the experience all the better – I do of course read them in order to decide I want to read the book in the first place but invariably the book ends up lost somewhere in the TBR pile for a month or twenty four and so I forget). Therefore the story that unfolded before me was one that I could never have guessed and one that had I known too much of what was to come would possibly have ruined the experience so I am going to try and make you read this book without saying too much and being a bit vague, for this is a book that if you haven’t read then you simply must.

Kathy H introduces herself to the reader as a thirty one year old carer and who has been doing this for eleven years as ‘Never Let Me Go’ opens. In fact it is Kathy B’s narration and voice that are part of what makes the book such a success as we learn how she got from her childhood in the grandeur of Hailsham School to where she is now. As we go through this ‘coming of age’ tale with a rather large twist, in fact it’s the twist that made a genre I don’t like (coming of age tales) such a readable book, Kathy H drops little hints to the reader that she and the other children at this school, such as her two closest friends Tommy and Ruth for it is their three stories ad the triangle they create, are quite different from the likes of you and me and ‘where you come from’.

If I gave anything away I would be so cross with myself because knowing nothing about this book is probably the best way to let the emotional impact hit you as it unfolds. I will say that Ishiguro creates such a realistic story and scenario that rather than thinking ‘Never Let Me Go’ is set in an ‘alternative England’ in the 1990’s I could very well believe that all that happens in the novel could have really happened and still be happening and you would never know. You might find yourself looking at people you pass in the street a little bit differently. I know I did after finishing the book and to me that shows how real and engrossing a modern masterpiece Ishiguro has created.

He manages to write lyrical prose and what you would deem a ‘literary’ novel whilst merging in the speculative and also managing to leave every chapter on a cliff hanger so that you simply have to read on. You will get gripped so maybe try and read this on a very free weekend. Ishiguro also manages to put us inside the heads of all of the three main characters and gives us insight into Ruth and Tommy’s motives only using Kathy’s observations and to me that was a further sign of what a brilliant novel this is. I don’t think I can recommend or rave about it enough. 10/10 (And for a coming of age story to get that from me is quite something. Read it and if you have done so already… read it again, I know I will one day!) 

I mentioned I had struggled with Ishiguro before. It was actually for a book group choice back in the days before blogging and we read ‘An Artist of the Floating World’ I am wondering if the timing was all wrong and I should maybe go back to it sometime as after reading ‘Never Let Me Go’ I can’t understand how I wasn’t bowled over by him before. I shan’t head for that next though, I am already slyly eyeing up ‘A Pale View of Hills’, I could head for his most famous novel ‘Remains of the Day’ but I think I want to read that last. Who else has read ‘Never Let Me Go’ and what did you think? Which other Ishiguro novels have blown you away?


Filed under Books of 2010, Faber & Faber, Kazuo Ishiguro, Review

Whoops More Book Ban Breakage

I don’t normally count readitswapit books as part of the book ban as to me its simply an exchanging of the number of books I already own, in fact on occasion I have swapped on behalf of others decreasing my numbers, I’ll admit this is rare! I have however included one on here as two arrive in the post today along with some that arrived via me and the shops, oops, the latter were meant to be 5 for a pound… I got 7 for a pound. Charity shops are making life hard for book lovers of late.

West of the Wall – Marcia Preston
I didnt buy this or readitswapit, this is a book for review for New Books Magazine and I will be cracking on with this on the weekend. The guys there have sent me some good (The Palace of Strange Girls) bokos to review and some not so (Tales of Kipling Audiobook) so will be interesting to see how this fares.

Beneath The Blonde – Stella Duffy
The third Saz Martin novel in the series of lesbian crime or if we arent going to pigeon hole it, bloody good fiction with a criminal hint! Have started the series this month and now have this so am very excited.

The Untouchable – John Banville
I already have this biy bought it for Dom. Gay spies who work for the Queen in a novel based on true events, sometimes you couldnt make it up, eager to try a Banville this year.

Calendar Girl – Stella Duffy
This is another book for Polly, she really is a lucky madam, read it this month and its grand.

Breathing Lessons – Anne Tyler
I have mentioned the love of Digging To America and how I am determined to read more and more, this one won the Pulitzer Prize winner so thought it would be worth ago frankly. My mum really loves Anne Tyler.

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
I have been recommended this book so many times that I think I need to knuckle down and read it. I have to say Artist of the Floating World was one of my lesser favourite book group books, but the man wrote Remains of the Day (also on my TBR pile) so am hoping this lives up to the hype.

Out – Natsuo Kirino
You are so right, I wasnt the biggest fan of her second book ‘Grotesque’ this month however this has won so many crime awards I thought would give her a go. This was my readitswapit book, am actually looking forward to this one a lot.

Book Of Evidence – John Banville
Loved the blurb, the idea of someone being a ‘murderer second’ I think sounds very clever, plus would like to try a shorter Banville first I think as though he is highly recommended have heard that he can be quite difficult. We’ll see if its true.

Feather Man – Rhyll McMaster
So many people were saying that this should have been on the Booker Longlist, plus it has an amazing cover. This will be read very soon I think, I dont want to be the last to be raving about a book, that happens far too often on this blog. They had another copy maybe should run and get Polly one?

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Filed under Anne Tyler, Book Thoughts, Kazuo Ishiguro, Marcia Preston, Natsuo Kirino, Stella Duffy