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A Pale View of Hills (Vintage International) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 196 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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In his first book, Ishiguro tells his story elegantly and elliptically. And therein lies the problem: the story is a bit too enigmatic. There are many dropped hints, and indeed plot threads, that seem to be incomplete. If his intent was to show the unreliability and fragility of memory, then the author succeeds admirably. But if he wanted to tell a complete story, his book falls short.
I would have loved to give this 5 stars, but couldn't quite do it.
Ishiguro's tale-telling in the first person narrative is spell-binding. The title can have multiple meanings, depending on which aspect of the book you are focusing on. I know I will definitely need to reread this novel again to put all the pieces together.
Is Sachiko Etsuko's projection of herself? Is Mariko representative of Keiko? To hear Etsuko switch to the first person when talking to Mariko near the river at the end of the novel really packed a punch. Had I considered such at other points in the book? Yes. But, to have it simply pop out there at the last minute was like cold water being splashed on my face.
The reference to Etsuko hanging onto something that caught on her foot while crossing the river was obviously a metaphor to her hanging onto the past. Mariko running away, right after asking why Etsuko was hanging onto that, was that Keiko fading in her memory or Etsuko questioning herself?
Our memories certainly do fade with time and can become quite unreliable, particularly if we are reviewing decisions and behaviors we would rather not recall. Given Keiko's suicide most likely being connected with Etsuko's decision to move to the United States certainly is reason for her to want to rewrite history to alleviate guilt.
I saw the cover from an earlier release of this book and it shows a Japanese woman - just her head - wearing a mask. This reinforces the ending of this book ... that Sachiko is really a mask Etsuko wears in her mind as she recalls the irrevocable decisions, and their consequences, of her past.
I finished reading A Pale View Of Hills three weeks ago and am still mulling it over in my mind. I plan to reread it again, looking for the subtle clues Ishiguro has surely placed throughout the book, but until then I will simply enjoy the experience of mulling over this literary work of art.
This story of a woman, her life, her families, and her homes is disturbing and mysterious on many levels. Unlike his later books, Ishiguro does not cleanly unveil a single story here. Rather he raises the themes of the disintegration of social fabric after the Nagasaki bombing, the transformation of Japanese culture to a more western attitude, mother-daughter relations, and social climbing through a series of incidents that combine the actual story with distortions and failures in memory of the narrator Etsuko/Sachiko.
The power of the book is in the stark unfairness of Etsuko's actions, their inevitability, and that they probably happened a hundredfold in Japan in the 40s and 50s.
Personally, I found the obscureness of the underlying plot a bit thick. Even reviewing 5 or 6 commentaries on the book online this morning, I didn't get to the bottom of it, and can see some and perhaps all of the commentators I found are even more confused. Probably Ishiguro knew he was leaving ambiguity and loose ends, in fact in one interview he said as much. For example, I suspect a sinister interpretation of the "rope" Mariko referred to 2 or 3 times, but found little clarity online. But the power of the book is clear, this is my favorite of Ishiguro's books.