Phew, finally! One week and 600 long pages later, and I can now say that I’ve read every novel Mr Ishiguro has written – and sadly I can also say that I’ve saved the worst for last. Although I’m still debating over whether this truly is his worst effort, or if I see it that way just because it has an entirely different style and tone to it.
The critics weren’t exactly kind to the novel (and I’m guessing the 3 line entry in wikipedia says a lot about its popularity) and I wish I could say I feel differently. But…I was disappointed to find that what I had loved the most in all his other novels – the contemplation, the peace, the heart – were all gone. Instead this novel plays like a dream – a dream which encompasses 3 days in the life of Mr Ryder (no first name mentioned), world class pianist.
My personal feelings aside, the complexity of the narration, the very real feeling of quicksand you got with every other sentence, the author’s effort to write something completely different – they’re all things to be appreciated. There are elements of the absurd – but it’s the kind of absurd that everyone finds in their dreams, and that’s why it’s so hard to try and summarize the whole novel (that and the fact that I don’t really feel like doing it 😉 ). Ryder seems to be in town for the first time – then it appears that he has a wife and child there; one moment people look up to him and talk about how amazing and important he is, the next – his words are totally ignored; everyone surrounds him with expectations, he tries to satisfy them all and fails equally, buildings shift in space and shape, childhood friends reappear in the form of public transportation employees – what could be more dreamlike than that? You’re perpetually feeling uneasy with this book: there’s no knowing what turn things will take, because there’s no rule to apply – and it’s just as frustrating and unenvolving as a dream.
Someone on the back cover puts this effort in the line of Kafka – but Kafka was in a whole different league of the absurd. Personally, I hope Mr. Ishiguro will stick to his own style – in fact, he did, since this novel came out in 1996 and what followed it were When we were orphans and the brilliant Never let me go.
I’ve kept this short, I’ve ended it abruptly- and yet it took me 3 tries to get out this much (which is nothing else except extra-proof of the sour taste this book has left me). On the (totally unrelated) bright side though, there’s a pretty cool entry in Michael Portillo’s Booker blog about this year’s runners up 😀