Thursday 9 December 2021

Book Review: The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Unconsoled The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an infuriating read, the reader is never in empathy with any of the characters. There is so much going on and yet nothing happens. There is very little in the way of storyline, plot, everything is totally fluid - space, time all slip in and out, back and forth, left and right, up and down, through triggers acting as jumping off points for memory shifts, spatial shifts, mood shifts - like a multidimensional maze.

I had once before started to read this book and got 2/3 of the way thorugh before it was packed up with all my goods and transferred to a shipping container to come back to the UK. I got back to reading it only as part of a retrospective on Kazuo Ishuiguro's works. We had some great discussions in the course group about this book, but I think out of the 6 of us only 1 liked it although even that person said she feult anxious all the way through, and the tutor who was on his 3rd read of it.

We discussed its dreamlike qualities, the absurb nature of many of the images within the book, Ishiguro's own commment that is was a metaphor - for what? , we discussed deferred and displaced anxiety, success and failure, domestic v profession lives and personas. We discussed whether the book is dreamlike, whether the various characters are aspects of the main protagonist Ryder's character transposed onto others, or him at various points in his life eg Stephan as the young Ryder, Brodsky as an elder one, whether the book is a metaphor for death/ approaching death, whether Ryder is in panic mode, confused, or mad, whether the town is a psychiatric hospital, the tram car and the electrician a Men's Shed for rehab. We discussed whether this was a backlash by Ishiguro over frustrations at readers (or critics?) lack of understanding of his earlier works seeing the first two A Pale View of Hills and An Artist of the Floating World as 'Japanese' and The Remains of the Day as an English custom drama mainly because of the interpretation of the book by the movie.

In the end I feel this is a book for the brain, the intellect, not for the heart or the soul. It benefits greatly from a slow, and very close read, but it leaves the reader unsatisfied, unconsoled. (less)

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