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Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 22, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307271021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307271020
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This suite of five stories hits all of Ishiguro's signature notes, but the shorter form mutes their impact. In Crooner, Tony Gardner, a washed-up American singer, goes sloshing through the canals of Venice to serenade his trophy wife, Lindy. The narrator, Jan, is a hired guitar player whose mother was a huge fan of Tony, but Jan's experience playing for Tony fractures his romantic ideals. Lindy returns in the title story, which finds her in a luxury hotel reserved for celebrity patients recovering from cosmetic surgery. The narrator this time is Steve, a saxophonist who could never get a break because of his loser ugly looks. Lindy idly strikes up a friendship with Steve as they wait for their bandages to come off and their new lives to begin. In the final story, Cellists, an unnamed saxophonist narrator who, like Jan, plays in Venice's San Marco square, observes the evolving relationship of a Hungarian cello prodigy after he meets an American woman. The stories are superbly crafted, though they lack the gravity of Ishiguro's longer works (Never Let Me Go; Remains of the Day), which may leave readers anticipating a crescendo that never hits. (Sept.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Ishiguro blends musical concepts with their literary counterparts in his latest work, and Nocturnes has the ephemeral quality of a song cycle with recurring themes and motifs developed in different prose keys. Though critics admired Ishiguro's lovely writing, "unassuming to the point of near-invisibility, like a lake whose still surface belies the turbulent currents beneath" (Los Angeles Times), they took issue with his characters—insubstantial and unconvincing when compared to the haunting creations found in his novels—and his implausible plot developments. Perhaps Entertainment Weekly summed it up best by stating that Nocturnes, by any other writer, would be praiseworthy; by a celebrated author like Ishiguro, it can best be likened to a minor work from a master composer.

Customer Reviews

One of the main characters in these stories is music.
Jan Dierckx
The moods differ within and between stories, but Ishiguro's unique ability to gently convey a story is always present.
Darryl R. Morris
I think because they didn't really seem to go anywhere.
Gina Greenlee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 66 people found the following review helpful By reader 451 on May 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
Kazuo Ishiguro is back to his bittersweet, witty but sensitive original style. The five brief novellas of Nocturnes are intense and beautiful; they are packed with detail, never waste the readers' attention, and are entirely engrossing. In the first: Crooner, a Polish café musician comes to the assistance of a vynil-era singer who was once his mother's idol. Another story pits a greying ex-hippie against his brash and shallow university friends in a comedy of missed meanings. The third peels the multiple layers of an unexpected encounter in the Malvern hills.

I hesitated to get Nocturnes. After the awkward plot of When We Were Orphans, the controversial The Unconsoled, the gothic / sci-fi Never Let Me Go, I thought: sure, this is interesting, but maybe this is an author running out of inspiration, maybe this is someone flailing for the next idea, and now all we're getting is a collection of stories. This is what I had in the back of my mind, especially when I saw the title, with the vaguely corny musical theme, the Chopin prop. But it isn't like that. This book is in the style of Ishiguro's first three novels, and it is new at the same time.

The musical theme is an excuse; it even works. These are all moving stories with an eye for verisimilitude - the infuriating fragmented mobile-phone conversation, customer rage at the sandwich bar - and humour. Two of them got me laughing to tears - I know reviewers say that, but literally. And Ishiguro can have you laughing to tears and two pages later falling respectfully silent. Some people say they don't like short stories because it is difficult to build characters within their brief span. But this author can pack a character in fifty pages where others would take 300. And the stories aren't entirely unconnected... but I won't spoil it for you. Don't miss this!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
From any other author, the craft and ease of these five stories would merit four stars at least, but Ishiguro has set his own standards so high with books like NEVER LET ME GO that he may disappoint readers with this slim collection. Subtitled "Five stories of music and nightfall," the tales do have an impressive unity of theme. The protagonists are all musicians, generally putting higher ambitions on hold to play in cafe orchestras or pick-up groups; like the butler in THE REMAINS OF THE DAY they are people of great competence in their own small world, but adrift in the larger one. The nightfall element is less consistent, though each story contains an evening scene somewhere. Or maybe this is intended metaphorically, for a significant theme in most of the tales is that of a relationship coming to an end -- not violently, but with a poignant regret that is also implied by the title.

The trouble is that this consistency is also limiting. Ishiguro has rung many variations before on his theme of the competent loser, but he has relied on the context of a full-length novel to provide richness and detail, and his major books to date have all been completely different, each written in a different genre. But these five stories are too similar; their prevailing mood is comedy, veering towards farce in the second and fourth, but without significant change of tone, and the protagonists are too much alike. But the stories are charming and well-written, and share an atmosphere different from that of any other author.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on October 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Nightfall, the end of the day, stands as a symbol for the breakdown of human affections in the five stories in this bundle: a brief and happy encounter in `Nocturnes', a burnt out love in `Crooner', a strained relationship in `Come Rain or Come Shine', a struggling musician confronted with a quarreling old couple in `Malvern Hill' or a wrecked ambition in `Cellists'.
They are melancholic tales about `how the bosom pals of today become lost strangers tomorrow.'
The tensions between the estranged partners are sometimes extremely roughly projected on common friends or strangers who were sometimes called in to repair the broken vases.

In a subdued, but just therefore strong emotional, undertone, K. Ishiguro creates a remarkable atmosphere of sadness about the fragility of human relations.

These stories constitute a perfect introduction to the author's literary masterpieces, like `The Remains of the Day', `Never let me go' or `An Artist of the Floating World'.
Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Najla Alowais on October 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I would rate this as an almost 4 star.

Nocturnes is a collection of 5 short stories with a common theme of music and nightfall. I was hesitant about reading this, since Ishiguro's style - slow, beautiful prose - seemed more fitting of longer novels rather than short stories. Still, I wanted to see how he would pull this off, and I can't say I was disappointed. It was different than the other two Ishigoru books I've read (Never Let Me Go & Pale View of Hills), and yet there was that subtleness of Ishigoru that was very much visible in this book. I enjoyed reading all 5 stories, and liked the title story "Nocturnes" most of all.

Crooner: Set in Italy, Jan, a street musician and temporary member of a band, meets Tony Gardner, his mother's favorite singer and musician. Jan meets an older Tony, and is enlisted to help him with matters concerning love, and as the story progresses, you find more layers to Tony's mission.

Come Rain or Come Shine: I heard lots of shouting in my head as I read this one. Ishigoru's characters just leapt out of the page and I could hear them loud and clear. Charlie enlists his old college friend's help in patching matters with his wife and although the terms are unclear, when you do realize what they are, the whole story gains a very humorous light.

Malvern Hills: A young musician goes to his sister's place for some reflection time and meets people from the past; an exceptionally horrifying teacher. He also meets an interesting couple. The exquisite details and descriptions of this particular story added to the overall narration.

Nocturne: A character from the first story makes an appearance here, but the story is mostly about a gifted jazz player who makes a choice, or is almost forced into one. I loved this the most.
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More About the Author

Kazuo Ishiguro is the author of six novels, including the international bestsellers The Remains of the Day (winner of the Booker Prize) and Never Let Me Go. He received an OBE for service to literature and the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

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