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The Unconsoled by

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The unconsoled - Kazuo Ishiguro

ISBN: 057122539X
See also: Jabberwock ; Fantastic Metropolis

Surreal and weird are terms that come to mind when I attempt to review this book. Or to be even more accurate, very weird and extremely surreal :)

The story revolves around a world famous pianist who travels to a city, in Europe somewhere but we’re never told where exactly, and then travels around meeting people and being late for other meetings with people. Ryder seems to be suffering from some sort of amnesia at first. We don’t really know anything about him, and he doesn’t really seem to know anything about himself either.

As the novel, I hesitate to say progresses… As we read through the novel it becomes increasingly dreamlike; places that were one moment were miles apart can suddenly be reached through a turn-off or a mysterious doorway. And our narrator sometimes turns omniscient; knowing what is going on in the minds of others, sometimes knowing what has gone on when he was nowhere nearby. Perhaps it isn’t dreamlike, maybe it is more his insanity that makes him think he knows this. I don’t know.

I pretty much have no clue what this novel was about. And yet I liked it. Yes, it was sometimes frustrating to be so totally in the dark about what was going on, but at the same time it is very well written. Ryder is an ass, no bones about it, but he is also extremely well-drawn and engaging. The writing is wonderful.

I can’t really condense this book into a review. You’ll have to read it. If you find that you like it then good, if you don’t, you don’t. Personally I loved it. And hated parts of it at the same time.


As the was born in Japan but is a British citizen I have tagged this post as both.

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8 Comments

  • 1 January 2008 - 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I much prefered this to Never Let Me Go, pretty compelling and unputdownable. I remember reading this (oh it must be five years ago now… I'm feeling old) straight after Kafka's The Trial, and the similarities were pretty uncanny. I was also so paranoid I almost didn't leave my bedroom for the next week… :)

  • 1 January 2008 - 8:12 pm | Permalink

    This is the wrong place to put it, but I wanted to wish you a Happy New Year. Glad to see you back.

  • 2 January 2008 - 1:40 pm | Permalink

    this is one of the few books that i have actually put down. which was really quite frustrating 'cause i was very (and am still, damn it) intrigued by this book.

    maybe it was the pacing or the feeling that what i was reading was so utterly and completely inconsequential. i particularly remember that bit, right in the beginning (it would have to be, of course) where he's talking to the doorman about carrying suitcases and the interminable and nothing conversation that evolves about carrying suitcases.

    and the really frustrating thing is, is that as i write about this and think about that part of the novel, it makes me smile. i love that sort of thing. perhaps i should say, i have loved that sort of thing "on stage"? and maybe thats the difference.

    i don't know…

    it certainly seems interesting. maybe i'll give it another try sometime?

  • 2 January 2008 - 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I'll definitely give it a whirl and let you know. I like Ishiguro but like Econgirl wasn't all that into 'Never Let Me Go'.

    All the best for 2008.

  • 2 January 2008 - 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Your review accurately captures the book's tone and feel. I really enjoyed this book – but I can't say why…

    I loved one part somewhere in the middle of the book where the narrator is visiting a couple older ladies (sisters?) and he looks in the mirror and sees himself – face reddened and shaking from side to side.

    I too couldn't quite get going with 'Never Let Me go' but enjoyed 'When We Where Orphans'.

  • 2 January 2008 - 9:37 pm | Permalink

    @ TGWAOF: I preferred the plot in Never Let Me Go, but some of the writing in this was just wonderful. You know, I don't think i've ever read The Trial. I must.

    @ Carl: any place is good :) I hope you had a great holiday. I'm sure you got loads of great pressies, and I'll be over to your blog to take a look soon.

    @ JP: I did get frustrated. Loads of times. But at the same time it was engaging and readable. I loved those conversations about nothing; and the importance of carrying a suitcase, not putting it down at all, when one is a porter, was wonderful. And I think that saying it made you smile but frustrated you at the same time is exactly how I feel about the book as a whole.

    @ red: Let me know how you get on.

    @ Glenn: thanks for stopping by Glenn. That scene was pretty odd. Ha, like the rest of the book wasn't.

    Am I the onle one who liked Never Let Me Go than?

  • 3 January 2008 - 11:37 am | Permalink

    well, that puts my experience in a new light… hmmm

  • Pingback: Susan Hated Literature » When we were orphans

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