March 2024
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Review: Nocturnes, Kazuo Ishiguro

This short story collection contains “five stories of music and nightfall”, revolving around some similar characters and locations.


This story features a Hungarian musician in Venice who sees his mother’s favorite singer, Tony Gardner, at a cafe where he is playing.  When he rushes over to greet Mr. Gardner, he is surprisingly invited to accompany the famous man in a serenade for his wife. As their barge circles Mrs. Gardner’s window, the musician learns that the married couple is not what he originally thought.

“Come Rain or Come Shine”

The narrator, Ray, goes to visit two of his college friends, Emily and Charlie, whose marriage is breaking up.  Charlie asks Ray to help him save it, but Emily has hated Ray for years, only appreciating his taste in music.  When Emily leaves, Ray finds himself accidentally peeking in her diary, tearing out a page.  In an attempt to save the day, Charlie tells Ray to pretend the neighbors with the dog have come by and ruined everything.

“Malvern Hills”

A young man goes to visit his sister and her husband for the summer after a number of failed attempts to join a band.  While there, he meets a European couple who have performed all over the world.  The man, an eternal optimist, and his wife, a much more negative person, have a few lessons to teach the narrator about his music.


Both Steve’s marriage and his music career are failing.  His wife’s new lover offers to give him a facelift, which according to his manager will re-launch his career, as he’s quite an ugly man.  When Steve takes the offer, he discovers that he is next door to Lindy Gardner, Tony Gardner’s ex-wife, and together they have a series of adventures at night in the recovery hotel.


The only story to be told mostly in third person returns to Venice, where cellist Tibor meets an older American woman who considers herself a virtuoso on his instrument.  Through a series of lessons, Eloise teaches Tibor that he is a great cellist and that he deserves more than a place in a restaurant band.  Eloise, however, is holding something back.

For the most part, these stories were a little disappointing.  While they are still beautifully written, they just didn’t have the impact that Ishiguro’s novels do.  There isn’t enough time for that slow emotional build-up, nor to even get to know the characters.  I felt a few of them were almost insufferably arrogant when it came to their musical talent, which didn’t help.  While these stories did make me think, particularly about relationships and identity, and had some smaller revelations, overall Nocturnes was just not up to my expectations.

I am an Amazon Associate. I borrowed this collection from the library.


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