Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is 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.

I had a rather precarious feeling, perched on the edge of that mountain looking out over such a view; a long way down below us, we could see the harbour looking like a dense piece of machinery left in the water. Across the harbour, on the opposite bank, rose the series of hills that led into Nagasaki. The land at the foot of the hills was busy with houses and buildings. Far over to our right, the harbour opened out on to the sea.
We sat there for a while, recovering our breath and enjoying the breeze. Then I said: Wouldn’t think anything had ever happened here, would you? Everything so full of life. But all that area down there,” — I waved my hand at the view below us — “all that area was so badly hit when the bomb fell. But look at it now.”
~
Memory, I realize, can be an unreliable thing; often it is heavily coloured by the circumstances in which one remembers.

I've grown oddly fond of Kazuo Ishiguro's detached, melancholy writing style with the occasional snippet of wisdom. But I'm just not sure if I like this book. Ishiguro writes a very specific type of story. A Pale View of Hills has a lot in common with An Artist of the Floating World, it has the narrator who tends to ramble about the past, the exotic setting, the tragic lives of the people post-war and the you-knew-this-was-coming-but-BAM-anyway ending. Being his debut, though, A Pale View of Hills isn't as refined as Ishiguro's other books. It's abrupt and though the author has relied on characterization for story-building, it is filled with clumsy dialogue. He seems to be trying hard to be unique, with the purposely incomplete title among other things. The good thing is that the story is very eerie. If you start reading it, do complete it despite all the absurdities; it is full of seemingly inconsequential details that all make sense at the end. While I wasn't too impressed by the book, overall, there were parts that haunted me for hours after I finished reading.

I'd recommend A Pale View of Hills only to a seasoned Ishiguro reader. Otherwise, it's best to try An Artist of the Floating World, or Never Let Me Go.

2 comments:

Divers and Sundry said...

i've read 2 by this author and recently picked up a 3rd to add to my tbr pile. i'll watch for this one. thx for the suggestion.

Priya said...

Hope you get around to reading them! Even I've picked up another, but I'm going to put it on hold for now.

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