bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #39: Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

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.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #35: When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

All right, Cannonballers. I am behind on my reviews, and I was without internet for the weekend, so a few of these might be a little too short to qualify as a proper review. Oh well.

Christopher Banks loses both his parents under mysterious circumstances in China. Returned to England as a child, he lives under the specter of that loss. As an adult, he is famed for his work as a private investigator and decides to put his skills to work to find out how his parents disappeared.

As with all his works, Ishiguro focuses on the isolation of the individual, and of the dreamlike quality our lives take in combining reality with memory. Apart from his two most famous works, I enjoyed this one the most, because it combines memory with mystery in a way that is compelling without being cliché.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #33: An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

When I’m determined to “collect” an author, I usually do…as evidenced by my McEwan posting spree. This is Kazuo Ishiguro’s second novel, and it actually bears some interesting thematic similarities to his first novel.

Here, the narrator is an elderly man trying to negotiate a marriage for his second daughter, Norike. Set in Japan, he is an artist whose works have made him an uneasy object of admiration and wariness. We sense that some of his artistic bridges have been burned with his mentee, though we won’t find out why till later in the novel.

Ishiguro, while still weaving back-and-forth in time, explores the problems of regret at the end of one’s life. Our narrator, in trying to cultivate a relationship with his rambunctious grandson, has time to reflect on what he’s done, and how his actions, in affecting others, have come back to haunt him ever so slightly.

Ishiguro is a fantastic writer, and in writing again about Japan, he demonstrates the uneasy relationship that he has with his “roots” (though he moved to England as a young child–so perhaps those roots are artificially derived?). It’s a quick read, and an interesting idea to ponder.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #32: A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro

I’ve been wanting to see how Kazuo Ishiguro’s early work stacks up to his more famous novels (i.e., The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go). So, I read A Pale View of Hills, his first novel, and was rather intrigued by the whole process.

The story begins an older Japanese woman living in London processes the recent suicide of her eldest daughter, Keiko. Her younger daughter Niki is visiting, and it is in this visit that old memories resurface, and she comes face-to-face with a memory of her neighbor and her neighbor’s troubled daughter, after World War II has ravaged Japan.

There is a sense of memory loss, or unreality, in Ishiguro’s works, and it is fascinating how one can feel detached or disconnected through these texts. As with Ryder, the narrator of The Unconsoled, the narrator here continually wanders as if in a dream, and has to force herself to catch her bearings and sift through the simultaneous passings of time. It also felt as if Ishiguro, himself a self-identifying Englishman, is trying to process his relationship to Japan, while feeling an actual kinship with England instead.

While this was an interesting read, I definitely saw it as a “first novel” and would probably not teach it, unless I get the (highly unlikely) chance to teach an Ishiguro seminar someday.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.