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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