Sunday, July 17, 2016

Remains of the Day

I am surprised that I have not already written about this book... but I am glad that I did not because I have a different way of looking at it now with comparison to what I have already read by Ishiguro.
When I first read it, I had already seen the movie with Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Thompson (two of my most favourite actors!), and I already loved it.  This is unfortunate, because the movie predisposed me to see things that aren't too apparent with the book (unless you already know what to look for).
Second time around I began to see a theme with what I have read so far in A Pale View of Hills, An Artist of the Floating World and Remains of the Day.  They are all retrospective novels, they all look back in to their past (and they are bittersweet).  Also, the protagonist does at some point try to make a change, but really it is too late to do so and learning to live with events and their consequences is inevitable and unusual in each story.  Of course, it is only a stressful situation for the lead character, and once the book concludes you do see that it isn't really as bad as you once thought it was, but I love how you are drawn in to the story and carefully held there until it is over.
Remains is a departure from the first two books, a story that is heavily steeped in a British culture that is almost extinct now (or the book would have you believe so),  it was extremely interesting to read about the life of a servant in a large country estate, and about the measures he took to be an excellent butler.   I am in awe of how Ishiguro has taken me from Japan in the first two books to England in the third and has immersed me in the distinct cultural experience of each country.  I am very excited to see where he will take me next!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Japanese Novels

To my great pleasure I have been able this year to buy all of Kazuo Ishiguro's works.  It is something I have been meaning to do since I read Remains of the Day years ago.  Since May I have had this lovely stack of shiny new books by my reading chair.
I have been slowly rationing out the reading of them over a few months, but I plan on reading the lot this year, and I am alright with that, because these are books that I will come back to again and again.

A Pale View of Hills is Ishiguro's first novel, and the first of two books known as his Japanese novels.  I should admit that a few years ago I had read An Artist of the Floating World, and that when I had finished I was embarrassed because I didn't know much about that time (post World War II).  So I have made a point of getting informed about Japan.  I have studied customs, food, history and geography.  I really wanted to understand these novels, get the cultural references etc.  It is still not an easy job to do, and Ishiguro is the first to say that he did not write in the Japanese style (what ever that is), but just about characters in Japan.  I want to understand and to know more about the Japanese art of storytelling, but I have barely begun reading Japanese authors (I have a list of who I would like to read next!)
This time around, I felt I had a better grasp of what Japan is about (but still a very small understanding of such a rich and beautiful culture!).  So reading this book, I was happy to see that I had a better awareness of it's content (there was a lot of "Oh, I know what this is!" instead of "Huh?").
Continuing on to a re-reading of An Artist of the Floating World, I was able to see the theme of both of these novels, and to understand what they were trying to tell me.  They are both retrospects of significant times in the lives of both protagonists with a the humanizing admission that they were not perfect, that they made mistakes and that they could live with that fact in later years.  Ishiguro is a writer who carefully leads you along the same path as the protagonist, he gently supports you through the crisis of each person, and then helps you to see that there is and can be an acceptance of and a resolution to each circumstance,  but not perhaps what you were expecting or hoping for.   Both books are almost delicate in the delivery of their stories.  If this is a Japanese story telling trait, I have no idea, but I hope it could be.  I can't wait to find out!