Woo hoo! Another contemporary author “collected” for me. I have not been as enthralled with Ishiguro’s earlier works as I have his later, so this must mean his next books will be really great, right? Either way, Nocturnes is a change of pace, since it is comprised of 5 short stories.
In one short story, a street musician must help a veteran singer woo his estranged wife. In another, a struggling guitarist finds himself becoming entangled in a failing marriage. And in another, a jazz musician hopes that a facial plastic surgery will launch his career.
Individually, Ishiguro hits on his familiar themes: isolation, the individual’s place against an unfamiliar and unfriendly world, and the nature of memory and dreams in our reality. But this time, he sets them to a backdrop of music that plays out in intriguing ways with each story. Some characters will bleed over into other stories, a beautiful tapestry that makes this collection satisfying and unifying in a way that other short-story writers have yet to master.
After reading Nocturnes, I really, really wish that Ishiguro had been the one to write Cloud Atlas. My biggest complaint about it was that despite the superficial connections between the sets of novellas, it didn’t really feel seamless, and it didn’t come together, even in the end. Ishiguro’s mastery in Nocturnes (and really, his other work) demonstrates that he can craft a story that is both compelling and eloquently written. He needs to write something new for me. Seriously.
You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.