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The Unconsoled Paperback – October 1, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
A renowned pianist finds himself in a mysterious and dreamlike urban maze.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
As stylistically distinctive as his acclaimed The Remains of the Day (LJ 10/1/89), Ishiguro's newest work offers a different kind of protagonist. While Remains's butler was at odds with himself (without knowing it), prominent concert pianist Ryder is at odds with his surroundings. Ryder arrives in an unidentified European city at a bit of a loss. Everyone he meets seems to assume that he knows more than he knows, that he is well acquainted with the city and its obscure cultural crisis. A young woman he kindly consents to advise seems to have been an old lover and her son quite possibly his own; he vaguely recalls past conversations. The world he has entered is a surreal, Alice-in-Wonderland place where a door in a cafe can lead back to a hotel miles away. The result is at once dreamy, disorienting, and absolutely compelling; Ishiguro's paragraphs, though Proust-like, are completely lucid and quite addictive to read. Some readers may find that the whole concept grinds too much against logic, but the pleasure here is that Ishiguro doesn't do anything so ordinary as trying to resolve events neatly, instead taking them at face value. Highly recommended.
--Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
My biggest criticism so far is just that the protagonist is a very important white man in the center of a world that (at least so far) is extremely fond of him. You see my problem, right? Whoever heard of a popular white dude as a main character in a novel?
My other son, Mike Meginnis, gave me Ishiguro's book The Buried Giant last Christmas, and I could not put it down till I had read every last page and also cried a great deal. Sad, heart breaking and terrible story, and very very satisfying. Language use had a texture all its own and the thought and speech of the main characters was human in a way that made the story more real than reality. Historically very interesting too.
I love this guy. I would love to see what he can do with a female protagonist. Will have to look for any such works soon. If only I was as good as he is at ANY thing. I would have his baby. I would give him mine (not you Mike, the other one, honest).
I do, however, immensely admire Ishiguro as a writer with a singular brilliance at capturing the enigmatic. In that, he can be compared to the greatest writers in English. He does not write novels which have easy explanations. Rather, he addresses the aspects of life that can't be explained.
"The Unconsoled" does have a storyline, and a central character, a renowned concert pianist named Ryder, who somehow finds himself in a city at once strange and familiar, peopled with figures from his past, ruled by rituals he half-understands, split by fierce rivalries that he gropes to decipher.
It appears that he is being asked to give the performance of a lifetime in a short while. But the day lengthens as the hour of the concert approaches, and Ryder moves through a world that is sometimes countryside, sometimes cityscape, associating with strangers who seem to know him, including a woman who seems to be his wife and a boy who seems to be his own child, and hearing about tumultuous events which are never explained.
Many readers, unable to bear a novel with so many uncertainties, give up in frustration, and you will see that fully half of the reviews here are four stars or less.
Among the highest praise given this novel came from Anita Brookner: 'Almost certainly a masterpiece.' That 'almost certainly' is amusing, a bit of insurance in case the critic is making a fool of herself.
What is the book about? Is it the landscape of a man's unconscious mind? Is it about psychological disintegration? Is it actually a metaphor for Life itself, with a capital L?
I have no hesitation in recommending this book very highly to all readers. Give it a go, see if you think it's a masterpiece, or 'impenetrable,' as one reviewer has decided. You may find, as I did, that this novel is one of the easiest to read, and most difficult to explain, of all 20th Century novels in English. But I hope you will also find that it is deeply rewarding.
Ultimately, the characters and events in this dreamlike narrative do lead to a psychological profile for Ryder that pulls all the weirdness together. Among the most important characters are Boris, a 12 year-old boy with a heightened sense of responsibility; Stephan, a talented-twenty something pianist who decides to test his ability in the wide world; and Brodsky, an elderly and once famous conductor whose achievement is unrecognized in his community. For each of these characters, Ishiguro creates moments of odd emotional rejection and unappeasable expectations. The meaning of these experiences, as well as similar moments in the lives of other "unconsoled" characters, then clarifies when Ishiguro finally delves into Ryder's relationship with his own parents. This concludes in a eureka-moment and helped this reader "get" the narrative, as well as pity Ryder for the strange emotional warmth he finds at the novel's end.
THE UNCONSOLED is not for everybody. But it's a major book and is highly recommended.
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