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04 December 2004 @ 11:35 am
Kazuo Ishiguro, A Pale View of Hills  
Once in a while there is a novel allowing my western-oriented mind a first careful glimpse into a different cultural sphere.This book neither asks for very much previous knowledge, nor does it require the iron will to cope with two dozen unfamiliar cultural references per page. Instead, it comes along as an invitation in a familiar handwriting and language, kindly offering to take you out to a place where you have never been.

Kazuo Ishiguro's A Pale view of Hills clearly falls into this particular category. While the author was born in Japan, he spent most of his life in Britain. His narrative voice is a very British one. Subtle but poignant. Rather understating than overdoing it, the most important things  lying between the lines instead of screaming into the reader's face. The most well-known of Ishiguro's novels, also turned into an award-winning movie featuring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, probably is The Remains of the Day, the story of a dutiful butler who takes so much pride in his attitude of subservience that he forgets to live.

I guess, you can't go any more British than that *g*

Ishiguro's first novel A Pale View of Hills, however, uses Britain merely as a frame, a cultural lense through which the book's Japan-based parts are being rendered, for the reader perceives the devastation and disruption of post WWII  Nagasaki through the eyes of Etsuko, a middle-aged Japanese woman, now living in England. As Etsuko dwells on the suicide of her eldest daughter, she becomes increasingly haunted by the memory of Sachiko, an old Nagasaki accquaintance, whom she now subconsciously begins to realize as her own shadow double. As a woman who, in her own headstrong but confused, very desperate way rebelled against the rigid limitations of traditional Japanese society in a time of war-imposed change, years before Etsuko dared to undertake the risk-loaden step of self-liberation herself.

As the plot unfolds up to its cruel, merciless climax, Ishiguro displays a unique talent for the elliptical. Perhaps the novel's finest achievent lies in the fact that A Pale View of Hills allows the reader to pick up all its little mosaic pieces and to form a picture for himself, without too many pre-fabricated hints for interpration.

What is expressed by the mere interaction between Etsuko and her father-in-law or Sachiko goes far beyond what any detailed scholarly description of post-war Japan could ever contain 
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Bimobimo on December 4th, 2004 08:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the book review.

You are welcome :-)

Not that I mind, but how will I ever get through them all unless I abandon writing, and for that matter, work. :-)

I wonder why this sounds so strangely familiar... *g*

Some time ago, my own "books to read " list got so hopelessly long I decided to abandon it altogether. I now live a very happy and carefree life as a "spontaneous book buyer"... *g*
Karenquiller77 on December 4th, 2004 08:46 pm (UTC)
I now live a very happy and carefree life as a "spontaneous book buyer"
A wonderful plan -- one concocted by someone who does not work in a library, methinks. :-) But since my list is in my head it gets shifted around, often at random, with books I've just heard about jumping the queue, so maybe I don't have much of a list after all. Just a yearning to read everything that sounds interesting.
Cavendishcavendish on December 4th, 2004 10:10 pm (UTC)
>Some time ago, my own "books to read " list got so hopelessly long I decided to abandon it altogether.

Ah,k that's why ... ;-)). But I think a books to read list is a really good thing to have ... just needs to be updated once in a while ;-)

>I now live a very happy and carefree life as a "spontaneous book buyer"... *g*

I shudder at the mere thoght ... maybe I should really become mere spontanious ;-)