Review: A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro

A Pale View of Hills Book Cover A Pale View of Hills [1982] – ★★1/2 

<<This review may contain spoilers>>

Kazuo Ishiguro’s debut novel is quite a puzzle. In the story, we first meet Etsuko, a middle-aged woman from Japan who is now residing in the English countryside, while her younger daughter Niki lives in London. As Niki comes from London to visit her mother, Etsuko starts to reminisce about her previous life in Nagasaki, Japan. We eventually start to guess that Etsuko’s memory of the suicide of her older daughter Keiko in England is somehow linked to Etsuko’s recollections of her friendship with a strange woman Sachiko and her daughter Mariko at the time that she lived in Nagasaki. This short novel is an easy and, at times, intriguing read, with Ishiguro sometimes making insightful points about Japanese culture and the effect of the passage of time on his characters. However, it seems that this subtle novel also asks too much from its reader. If there was a mystery somewhere in the novel’s midst, then it was not sufficiently elaborated upon or given sufficient space to breathe for the reader to really care; and, if there was no real mystery, then the point of the novel is partly lost. Ishiguro seems to have wrapped his story in too many layers of subtlety, thereby forcing his readers to make a giant leap forward in terms of imagination so that they finally decide to start unwrapping the unwrappable. It is unlikely that there will be a satisfactory meaning or explanation found by the novel’s end. Besides, while the reader may want to delve into possible interpretations of what he or she has just read, there is also the possibility that the interest will be lost half-way through.  Continue reading “Review: A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro”

The Obscure Cities

Calvani and The Desert of Somonites, showing the Time Portal – Images from L’Archiviste [1987], an album by Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters, which is also part of their series Les Cites obscures. In the album, the archivist tries to demystify the nature and existence of the Obscure Cities.

The Harry Potter Tag

I noticed this tag on the Ever-the-Crafter blog, and I have decided to give it a go.

  • What house are you in?

It is predictable, but I am in Gryffindor, the house that values bravery and loyalty. I guess my natural instinct is to go for Slytherin, since I am attracted to everything unknown, and do not mind dark cold basement corridors, but, like Harry Potter himself, I guess I would have chosen Gryffindor, even if Slytherin also feels natural to me. When I went through a selection procedure for the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in North American, I was placed in the Wampus house. 

  • What is your patronus?

It will be some celestial she-wolf; she is a bit of a loner, but very protective of the ones she loves.  Continue reading “The Harry Potter Tag”

Leave Her To Heaven

Leave Her to Heaven Book Cover“White he watched her, exotic words drifted across the mirror of his mind as summer clouds drift across the sky…He thought of myrrh and frankincense and potpourri – or was it patchouli? and of nameless mysterious fragrances; of sloes, and of clusters of purple grapes, each richly full of blood-red juices which spilled when you crushed them between your teeth(1944: 22, Williams) (Leave Her to Heaven by Ben Ames Williams was published 74 years ago today).

10 Great Novels set in New York, NY

The Bonfire of the VanitiesI. The Bonfire of the Vanities [1987] by Tom Wolfe 

Tom Wolfe’s acclaimed novel is set in New York as it tells of a high-flying bond trader Sherman McCoy and his eventual fall from the societal ladder when he is involved in a hit-and-run accident alongside his strikingly-beautiful lover Maria. We get a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the New York’s privileged, while also mull over the lives of the disadvantaged living in the Bronx and those on the media outlets’ outskirts desperate to make a big story whatever it takes. Though, in terms of plot, it probably takes cues from both The Great Gatsby [1925] and the Spanish film Death of a Cyclist [1955], Wolfe’s novel is still a pure joy to read: witty, bitter-sweet and engrossing. One of the chapters is titled The Masque of the Red Death, so there is plenty of nuance and hidden irony.  

Breakfast at Tiffany's Cover BookII. Breakfast at Tiffany’s [1958] by Truman Capote 

What I’ve found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany’s. It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets” (2001: 36, Capote). Capote’s novella is short, and both sweet and melancholy in a way. It is about Holly Golightly, a stylish, vivacious young woman, living and enjoying life in Manhattan, not even wanting to think of her past, while men who admire her continue to speculate and probe into her mysteries and the secrets to her success. It is an easy read, but no less fascinating for it.  Continue reading “10 Great Novels set in New York, NY”

The Coffee Book Tag

Since I love coffee – I usually drink espresso in the morning, I thought I would do this fun tag, the creator of which now escapes many people, but I saw it first on this site.

I. Black coffee: a book that was hard to get into, but has a lot of die-hard fans

I have always thought that books by J.R.R. Tolkien have this quality. It is not very easy to get into the world of Tolkien and accept everything unquestionably. I think there are no ambivalent opinions on the books. There are people who do not read them and there are those who are passionate about the story-line and also followed every film. 

II. Peppermint mocha: a book that gets popular around the holiday season

I think Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is worth a read. It is entertaining enough, and, for the lovers of detective stories – it may be a “must-read” come festive season.  Continue reading “The Coffee Book Tag”

The Greek Mythology Book Tag

Flip That Page has created the Greek Mythology Book Tag, and since this is a popular type of posts on wordpress.com, I also thought I would give it a go. I also slightly re-worked the original tag framework. 

  • Zeus (Jupiter): God of the Sky and Thunder / King of the Gods

The Revolutionary Road PosterFavourite book: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates 

Richard Yates has created a fascinating, heart-breaking account of one couple – the Wheelers who simply want “to live” by deciding to go Paris and settle there permanently, breaking from the culture of conformity that pervaded the 1950s US. This marvellous novel is beautiful, a bit traumatic, but always moving. 

  • Poseidon (Neptune): God of the Seas and Earthquakes

The Remains of the Day Book CoverBook that drowned you in feels: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro 

There is something emotional, evanescent and indeterminate about Kazuo Ishiguro novels, but The Remains of the Day has got to be one of his most moving novels. While reading this novel, one cannot but feel about the whole situation of opportunities lost and never recovered, and think deeply about the nature of duty, responsibilities and how the tiniest and most mundane details/attention can sometimes mean the world to some people, and everything should be seen in its context.  Continue reading “The Greek Mythology Book Tag”

10 “Must-Read” Existentialist Novels with Memorable Lines

I. Albert Camus – The Stranger [1942]

Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.” [1984: 9, Camus/translation]. “You could never change your life…[and] that in any case one life was as good as another and…I wasn’t at all dissatisfied with mine here” [1984: 44, Camus/translation]. 

II. José Saramago – The Cave [2000] 

Human vocabulary is still not capable, and probably never will be, of knowing, recognising and communicating everything that can be humanly experienced and felt” [2002: 254, Saramago/translation]. “What a strange scene you describe and what strange prisoners, They are just like us” [Plato, The Republic, Book VII].  Continue reading “10 “Must-Read” Existentialist Novels with Memorable Lines”

The Ladder of Knowledge

In man, various faculties of knowledge – sensory perception, the imagination, reason and deep insight – correspond to the tiered arrangement of the macrocosm. The last rung is the direct comprehension of the divine word in meditation. The ladder extends no further, because God himself cannot be comprehended” (R. Fludd, Utriusque Cosmi, Vol. II, Oppenheim, 1619).