Book of the week: A Pale View of Hills

***** – You have never read anything like this before

If you have not yet discovered writing by Kazuo Ishiguro I implore you to go and find A Pale View of Hills, lock yourself in a quiet room and prepare to guided over hushed stepping stones to a world of the uncanny and the eerily quiet.

Ishiguro’s first novel is a strange tale of memories layered over each other, with events leaking into one another and leaving you reading about history, the recent past and the present simultaneously.

For Ishiguro’s narrator Etsuko, a woman who has move from Nagasaki to England, an unchanging, ultimate view can be found everywhere, linking her back to a time to which we are never fully privileged. There is a calendar photo of a Japan devastated by the war, the view from her daughter’s old room, the memory of the rocky road to her mysterious friend’s house, a memory of cable car rides with her unborn daughter or the pale view of the hills from her later home in England. Each view provides a platform for memory – and every one serves as a window to a time she would rather not speak of. Though Etsuko’s youngest daughter is keen to applaud her for moving out of Japan and on with her life the text’s narrator suggests this clean break is never possible.

Understated scenes of Nagasaki life are mixed with private characters and faded memories of violent crimes, each providing strange parallels and insights into Etsuko’s motives for leaving Japan and for her daughter’s suicide.

Like his later Booker prize-winner The Remains of the Day Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills is striking in its quietness. There are no signposts, fireworks and loudmouthed Rushdie narrators. The world you are asked to view is painted before you in pale colours with a dreamlike hesitancy to remain on any one subject for too long – is Etsuko’s friend a strange image of the narrator herself? – how does she break up with her husband? – the darks truths have to be developed between the pages by you alone.

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One Response to “Book of the week: A Pale View of Hills”

  1. Wit Ackman Says:

    Ooo. Intriguing. Perhaps I’ll have a go reading it this September (when I have some free time, at last).

    : )

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