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Review: A Pale View of Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro

Etsuko, a Japanese woman living alone in England, has just recently lost her elder daughter to suicide.  When her younger daughter comes for a visit, Etsuko can’t help but be reminded of her, and think of her own past in Japan, the devastation of the war and time with a friend who leads a very perplexing life.

This book was interesting in that I could see where Kazuo Ishiguro’s style originated.  We have a very unreliable narrator in Etsuko, whose story doesn’t add up.  In all honesty she doesn’t even seem sad that her daughter has passed away, she mostly wonders where she went wrong.  This book doesn’t quite have the impact his other books have; there is a slow build-up and a revelation, but the revelation isn’t obvious and half the internet disagrees on exactly what Ishiguro is getting across here.  I did like the haunting depictions of a Japan after World War II; they were a perfect backdrop to Etsuko’s own story.

I could see myself enjoying this more if I’d not read Ishiguro’s other works yet.  This one embraces and deals with complex themes, but it feels very much like practice for the greatness he’ll achieve later on.  Also, despite the fact that all of his stories are different in many ways, it feels like his central narrators are one-trick ponies and mostly the same.  I think that’s diminished his work for me, and reading the first one where he’s not the best at it was probably not a good idea when the others are so fresh in my mind.

In the end, a bit of a disappointment.  Also, whoever has read this book, do you want to share what you think happened at the end and what it all meant?  I want to, but only if enough people have read the book that I’m not spoiling the story for anyone who comes back to check my comments.

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13 comments to Review: A Pale View of Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro

  • It’s too bad this one didn’t live up to his others. I’ve only read The Remains of the Day, which I absolutely adored, and I plan to read Never Let me Go soon.

    Nymeth’s last blog post..Ratha’s Creature and Clan Ground by Clare Bell

    • Meghan

      I thought it was disappointing too. I liked Never Let Me Go, though. Make sure you don’t read anything about it beforehand!

  • I really didn’t like Remains of the Day (sorry, Nymeth!), which I read about when it came out. I’ve never tried any of his other books. I’ll likely let this one go too. I’ve been thinking of giving Never Let Me Go a try.

    Beth F’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday (Feb. 18)

    • Meghan

      Aw, I adore Remains of the Day! That’s okay. Never Let Me Go is his most “out there” work. It’s different from the others, so you might like it more.

  • This one sounds interesting. However, I’ve never read anything by Ishiguro, so I’d have nothing to compare it to. Sorry it was a bit disappointing.

    Anna’s last blog post..GOLD DUST ON HIS SHIRT by Irene Howard

    • Meghan

      I think it would be fine if you hadn’t read anything else. In fact, it might be interesting to go from the beginning and see how he gets better and better. Unfortunately I went the other way, from the best to the worst. Oh well!

  • Kazuo Ishiguro is an author I need to try, but it looks like this isn’t the book I should read.

    Kathy’s last blog post..Giveaway Winners

  • I read this awhile ago, and found it haunting and strange. I have my own ideas about the ending, but with the unreliable narrator, it was a bit tough to interpret. I actually wanted to read this one again to see if there were some clues I missed. It was my first Ishiguro, but I wish I had started with Remains of the Day because I heard it was very good.

    zibilee’s last blog post..Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – 544 pages

    • Meghan

      I thought it was difficult at the end, too. His other books all have an ending that makes sense. This one, I felt that there was an explanation, but there were still holes. It’s a strange book. I thought Remains of the Day was stunning, so I’d recommend you still go for it!

  • I haven’t read any Kazuo Ishiguro yet but I’ve heard such great things!

    S. Krishna’s last blog post..House of Daughters – Sarah-Kate Lynch

  • I have heard good things about Kazuo Ishiguro, I need to read him one day. sorry it was a bit dissapointing.
    great review.

    bookworm’s last blog post..Enchanted Again

  • Narges

    Maybe the reason you find Etsuko unreliable is that you are not familiar with eastern way of living. I live in the middle east and it’s easy for of to find the reason of some of the things she does in her past. However i don’t get the meaning of the end of the story . But i see that kind of leaving is similar to Sachico’s. Somewhere i read that Sachico is herself and Mariko is Keiko