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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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.