Monday, 28 September 2009
A Pale View of Hills
Title: A Pale View of Hills
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Number of pages: 183
Started: Ages ago
Finished: 28 September 2009
Niki, the name we finally gave my younger daughter, is not an abbreviation; it was a compromise I reached with her father. For paradoxically it was he who wanted to give her a Japanese name, and I--perhaps out of some selfish desire not to be reminded of the past--insisted on an English one. He finally agreed to Niki, thinking it had some vague echo of the East about it.
In his, highly acclaimed debut, A Pale View of Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro tells the story of Etsuko, a Japanese woman now living alone in England, dwelling on the recent suicide of her daughter. Retreating into the past, she finds herself reliving one particular hot summer in Nagasaki, when she and her friends struggled to rebuild their lives after the war. But then as she recalls her strange friendship with Sachiko - a wealthy woman reduced to vagrancy - the memories take on a disturbing cast.
What I thought:
I enjoyed this book. It took ages to read for a variety of reasons, but that wasn’t a reflection on the book or its length. It was quite a ‘calm’ story, although as it turns out, somewhat tragic. It was in some ways a strange read though because by the end, I wasn’t actually certain what had happened and quite who was who in the book. You would have to read it to understand what I mean though.
It was an interesting look at Japanese culture and politeness and it was also a good example of a book where you really have to consider the roll of the narrator in it to judge how accurate an account you are being given. I think the ambiguity of the book works, and it isn’t actually unsatisfying to have got to the conclusion and to be a bit mystified!