A Pale View of Hills: Kazuo Ishiguro

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A Pale View of Hills: Kazuo Ishiguro

A Pale View of Hills: Kazuo Ishiguro

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In his highly acclaimed debut, A Pale View of Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro tells the story of Etsuko, a Japanese woman now living alone in England, dwelling on the recent suicide of her daughter. I wonder if this is a metaphor for the burden of guilt she later carries about her daughter's death. Etsuko is holding what I presume is rope in her hands (again she claims it was caught around her ankle) and frightened Mariko runs away. In the story, we first meet Etsuko, a middle-aged woman from Japan who is now residing in the English countryside, while her younger daughter Niki lives in London. She seems very afraid of Etsuko and confuses her with a mysterious, possibly imaginary, woman who comes at night and tries to take her away.

A Pale View of Hills concerns Etsuko, a Japanese woman living in England, and the story of her past in Nagasaki. The two do enjoy their time spent together, but there’s tension in the air, caused by a topic both are reluctant to discuss, the suicide of Niki’s elder sister, Keiko. An Artist of the Floating World has really stayed with me, I think because when I read it, it genuinely was unlike anything else I’d ever read. Quite possibly, some of the episodes describing the girl Mariko really relate to the girl or young woman Etsuko.

The brilliant mind that concocted “Never Let Me Go” (which is, by the way, indubitably on my top ten list) first brought this masterpiece to a readership whose last brush with (this is no exaggeration:) PERFECTION was reading Mr. This refers to Etsuko/Sachiko moving her young daughter away from her life and father in Japan to England so that her daughter would have more opportunities and a better life. I like to think I managed to glean the bulk of the narrative symbolism and meaning, but the clear writing style used really helped to solidify my own understanding and opinions.

It also clearly makes a distinction between one daughter of Etsuko – “westernised” Niki on the one hand, and the second daughter – Keiko, on the other, who apparently found it difficult to adjust to her new life in the UK. Another interesting sub-plot of the novel concerns Japan facing up to its recent militaristic past (a theme examined in more depth in Ishiguro’s next novel, An Artist of the Floating World). After reading The Remains of the Day I read with pleasure this book, which brings the author to his Japanese origins and recent history. Matsuda has published an article in a journal on education in which he accuses Ogata and another teacher of having too easily gone along with the excesses of the thirties, with the nationalistic indoctrination, and even oppression of those who disagreed. Ishiguro never lingers on the horrors of the war and its aftermath, but it's so apparent in every page.The novel is tight, 75% dialogue, exquisitely concise, devoid of flowery sentences/descriptions, no bullshit and beautiful. This is because Etsuko admits to us at one point that, when she first heard that her daughter was found hanged in her room in Manchester, her first thought was to wonder how long Keiko hanged there – hardly the first thought response of a loving and caring mother. Keiko has a younger half-sister, Niki, who is visiting Etsuko and the story is told through Etsuko's recollections of one Summer in Japan after the second World War. Etsuko, in her telling, never spoke English at all in her Japanese life, but this is probably another example of where Sachiko’s details come from Etsuko; it was probably Etsuko’s bilious husband Jiro who threw away her English books—and later had the tables turned on him when she began an affair with an Englishman and left him.



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