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A Pale View of Hills

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Librarian note: This a previously-published edition of ISBN 9780571225378.

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. Retreating into the past, she finds herself reliving one particular hot summer in Nagasaki, when she and her friends struggled to rebuild their lives after the war. But then as she recalls her strange friendship with Sachiko - a wealthy woman reduced to vagrancy - the memories take on a disturbing cast.

183 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1982

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About the author

Kazuo Ishiguro

55 books33.4k followers
Sir Kazuo Ishiguro (カズオ・イシグロ or 石黒 一雄), OBE, FRSA, FRSL is a British novelist of Japanese origin and Nobel Laureate in Literature (2017). His family moved to England in 1960. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor's degree from the University of Kent in 1978 and his Master's from the University of East Anglia's creative writing course in 1980. He became a British citizen in 1982. He now lives in London.

His first novel, A Pale View of Hills, won the 1982 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize. His second novel, An Artist of the Floating World, won the 1986 Whitbread Prize. Ishiguro received the 1989 Man Booker prize for his third novel The Remains of the Day. His fourth novel, The Unconsoled, won the 1995 Cheltenham Prize. His latest novel is The Buried Giant, a New York Times bestseller. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2017.

His novels An Artist of the Floating World (1986), When We Were Orphans (2000), and Never Let Me Go (2005) were all shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

In 2008, The Times ranked Ishiguro 32nd on their list of "The 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945". In 2017, the Swedish Academy awarded him the Nobel Prize in Literature, describing him in its citation as a writer "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world".

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,399 reviews
Profile Image for Anne.
240 reviews11 followers
September 19, 2013
This book was so creepy and confusing that I opted to read it again. Not just because it is short, but because it is well written and it weaves a very intriguing mystery.

Our narrator Etsuko’s oldest daughter recently hung herself in her apartment. Nikki, Etsuko’s daughter with her second husband, visits Etsuko at her home and Etsuko recounts to her a brief friendship she had with a single mom named Sachiko back when she still lived in Nagasaki. I believe that Etsuko is an unreliable narrator and she and Sachiko are the same person. I also believe that Keiko, Etsuko’s deceased daughter, is remembered as Mariko, the young daughter of Sachiko.

I love an unreliable narrator. The second time I read the book, I did find some clues. In telling her story, Etsuko remarks that her memory is “hazy” regarding her time in Japan. She also says toward the end of the book that “Memory can be unreliable…heavily coloured by circumstances…no doubt this applies…here.”

At the beginning of the flashback, Etsuko makes an abrupt shift from how she felt living in Nagasaki during the years immediately following WW2 to how Sachiko felt about it within the same paragraph.

Niki, Etsuko’s surviving daughter visited her mom to reassure her that she should have “no regrets for choices (you) once made”. 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.

In the flashback, Etsuko’s father in law remarks, “Children become adults but they don’t change much.” This supports the theory that Keiko is Mariko – the daughter was troubled as a child and troubled as an adult.

There is also a key scene at the end of the book when the narrator shifts from neighbor to mother of Mariko mid-paragraph.

The two women’s histories are intertwined. Etsuko/Sachiko lost a boyfriend and her family in the war. Etsuko married a man in a caretaking role. A distant, controlling husband who didn’t seem to care or notice when Etsuko, several months pregnant, left their apartment many a night to hang out with Sachiko. Not likely. Sachiko briefly lived with an uncle after the war. After moving out, he asked her to return but she didn’t want to. Her feelings toward the uncle are likely the same as Etsuko felt about her first husband: “It was nice of him to have invited me into his household. But I’m afraid I’ve made other plans now. “ “There’s nothing for me at my Uncle’s house. Just a few empty rooms, that’s all. I could sit there in a room and grow old.“

Years later, Etsuko’s surviving daughter , Niki, echoes these sentiments. “Sometimes you’ve got to take risks. You did exactly the right thing. You can’t just watch your life wasting away.” Earlier in the story Etsuko snaps at Niki, resenting her need to reassure her mother about the decisions she made back in Japan. Etsuko remarks that her daughter has little understanding of what happened “those last days in Nagasaki”.

And what happened those last days in Nagasaki? Etsuko decided to leave her husband and move out of Japan. She tells Niki that she knew that Keiko/Mariko would be unhappy but she moved her out of Japan anyway. This is the most haunting part of the story – Keiko/Mariko’s suicide. Keiko hung herself in her apartment. In the flashbacks of Nagasaki, there were two instances where Etsuko/Sachiko was coming toward Keiko/Mariko holding a rope that she says she found caught on her sandal. In both instances Keiko/Mariko ran away, frightened. Etsuko also remembers that there was a child killer hanging kids in the neighborhood back in the day. I feel that by Etsuko unreliably remembering these instances, it indicates that she blames herself for her daughter’s suicide. Her neglectful mothering and her moving her daughter out of Japan caused her daughter to lead a thoroughly unhappy life. Throughout the flashbacks Keiko/Mariko is in danger of being hung.

Another disturbing scene is when Etsuko/Sachiko drowns Keiko/Mariko’s only playmates – her beloved kittens. I believe that this is another metaphor for the damage done to Keiko/Mariko by her mother moving them away from Japan – solving a problem in a selfish, lazy way under the guise of doing what’s best for Keiko/Mariko. Etsuko later tells Niki, “nothing you learn at that age is totally lost”.

During much of the dialogue in the flashback between Etsuko and Sachiko, they are debating a topic or trying to make a decision. To me, it looks like the thought process one person would have when trying to solve a problem.

Some of the topics they discuss:

-Should I leave my young daughter home alone? Sachiko thought it was fine but Etsuko didn’t agree.

-Should I move to America? Sachiko thought it would be better for Mariko but Etsuko thought living with her uncle would be a more stable choice.

-Should I go look for the American sailor who I thought was my ticket out of Japan? Sachiko decided to but Etsuko was skeptical.

-Should I go after my daughter when she runs out of the house upset in the night? Sachiko didn’t want to but Etsuko would go looking for her.

-Will the American Sailor really move me to America? Sachiko felt that he would but Etsuko doubted it.

-Do I really have to drown these kittens? Sachiko felt she had to but Etsuko offered to care for them.

-Does the noodle lady who lost most of her family in the war have anything to live for? Sachiko felt that the noodle lady had lost everything worth living for when she lost her family in the war but Etsuko thought she had a content enough existence, considering.

This book gave less than the bare bones of the story to the reader but was intriguing enough for me to stick with it. Twice.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for William2.
758 reviews3,079 followers
January 23, 2020
This is a beautiful novel that calls for patient and careful reading. I admire the way it's constructed. The cares and concerns of three pairs of mothers and daughters are refracted off one another. The first two pairs live near a resurgent Nagasaki sometime toward the end of the American Occupation of Japan in April 1952. The pregnant Etsuko, who narrates, lives with her husband Jiro, in a new concrete residential building along the river. From her window, across a stretch of wasteland, Etsuko can see, much closer to the river, an old cottage built in the traditional Japanese style. It is there that Sachiko and her daughter Mariko live. The third mother-daughter pair are in England of about 1980 or so. This pair is comprised of an older Etsuko and Niki, a daughter Etsuko has had by a second English-born husband. Another daughter, Keiko, fathered by Jiro, presumably the child Etsuko carries in the earlier timeframe, has recently committed suicide in her Manchester flat. Moreover, Etsuko's second husband has also died. (We never learn what became of Jiro.) So one can see why Etsuko would be unreliable--reasons too traumatic to face. She has lived through the American bombing of Nagasaki, but her wounds are entirely psychological. She has lost much, but specifically what she has lost is never described, only intimated. Ishiguro's elliptical style seems fully mature here in his first novel. It's unquestionably the same one he uses in later works. The penultimate page contains what we might call the narrative atomic-bomb. On reading it this second time--my memory of the subtle story had grown hazy over the intervening years--I all but jumped from my chair. Brilliant stuff, highly recommended.
Profile Image for Michele.
95 reviews15 followers
August 17, 2008
Every once in a while, a book surprises you on the way to its ending. After the first few pages of this book, I figured I knew what to expect - a well written realist novel about a displaced Japanese woman in England who reminisces about her youth while contemplating the choices her children have made. And for most of the book, that impression is borne out. It nicely describes the two countries, how people act and react, and what life has been like for this character throughout her time in both places.

The novel even does a very good job of replicating the varying syntax between English and Japanese - in the reminiscences, the dialogue does not flow as it would in English, and the translation is in some cases very literal, which makes the dialogue reflect the difference in thought patterns that speaking (and thinking) in another language requires.

Then, only ten pages from the end, the pronouns change. Where you expect 'she' there is 'the child' and where you expect 'you' there is 'we'. And all of a sudden you're unsure who is talking to whom, and when, and you start to realize that you have been taking what your narrator says at face value when perhaps you shouldn't have.

After all, the narrator of the story tells us more than once that perhaps her memory is faulty, perhaps she is mixing things up. But such a confession, such reluctance to appear certain, such a recognition of the false nature of memory, does the opposite of what the words should do. Instead of making the reader doubt the narrator, such qualification about the haziness of memory leads the reader to trust the narrator, after all, she has recognized that she's telling a story, and because she's telling a story, we're willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Then suddenly, the pronoun shift at the end introduces the possibility that not only did the narrator perhaps get some details wrong, leave some things out, change some names, be not as innocent as she seems, but maybe these omissions and alterations weren't accidental and we've been led to believe her a good person when perhaps she was lying about those details because she wasn't such a nice person after all, in fact, maybe she was a really nasty person.

I'm sure if you haven't read the book, all this sounds a bit confusing, and you might be wondering what the deal is anyway, but from a narrative theory point of view, the ability of such a small thing - a few pronouns - to throw the entire preceeding narrative into doubt is pretty impressive.

I think I will need to reread this book to figure it out.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews50 followers
October 21, 2021
(Book 274 from 1001 books) - A Pale View of Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro

A Pale View of Hills (1982) is the first novel by Nobel Prize–winning author Kazuo Ishiguro.

During a visit from her daughter, Niki, Etsuko reflects on her own life as a young woman in Japan, and how she left that country to live in England.

As she describes it, she and her Japanese husband, Jiro, had a daughter together, and a few years later Etsuko met a British man and moved with him to England.

She took her elder daughter, Keiko, to England to live with her and the new husband. When Etsuko and her new husband have a daughter, Etsuko wants to call her something "modern" and her husband wants an Eastern-sounding name, so they compromise with the name "Niki," which seems to Etsuko to be perfectly British, but sounds to her husband at least slightly Japanese. ...

منظر پریده رنگ تپه‌ ها - کازوئو ایشی گورو ، ادبیات ژاپن (انتشارات نیلا)؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: چهارم ماه آوریل سال2012میلادی

عنوان: منظر پریده رنگ تپه‌ ها؛ نویسنده: کازوئو ایشی گورو؛ مترجم: امیر امجد؛ تهران، نیلا، سال1380، در189ص؛ چاپ دوم سال1389؛ شابک9646900151؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ژاپن - سده 20م

منظر پریده رنگ تپه ­ها، گویا نخستین اثر «كازوئو ايشی­گورو» باشد؛ داستان پیرزنی که یکی از دو دخترانش خودش را کشته، رمان «منظر پریده‌رنگ تپه‌ها» به ظاهر ماجرایی خانوادگی است، که در آن زنی «ژاپنی ـ مقیم انگلیس»؛ یادمانهایش را از دوران جوانی باز می‌گوید، و در قالب آن به روابط پیچیده ی خود، با خانواده، و همسایگان اشارت می‌کند، و طی آن روایتی از رودررویی سنت، و تجدد، در جامعه‌ ای در مرحله گذار را ارائه می‌دهد؛ این رمان «ایشی‌گورو» نیز، همانند دیگر آثار «ایشی‌گورو»، در دو زمان روایت می‌شود؛ در زمان حال، راوی در «انگلیس» زندگی می‌کند، شوهرش مُرده، و یکی از دخترهایش خودکشی کرده است؛ دختر دیگرش، که در شهر دیگری زندگی می‌کند، برای چند روز، نزد راوی آمده، و در زمان گذشته رابطه ی راوی با زن، و دختر همسایه‌ شان در «ژاپن» پس از جنگ جهانی بازگو می‌شود؛

داستان با این جملات آغاز می‌شود: («نیکی»، اسمی که بالاخره روی کوچک‌ترین دخترم گذاشتیم، مخفف چیزی نیست؛ فقط توافقی بود بین من و پدرش؛ جالب این‌جاست دیدگاه پدرش این بود، که دنبال اسمی «ژاپنی» می‌گشت، و من شاید به خاطر این خودخواهی، که نمی‌خواستم گذشته را به یاد آورم، روی اسمی «انگلیسی»، پافشاری می‌کردم؛ بالاخره با «نیکی» موافقت کرد، باور داشت این اسم حال‌وهوایی شرقی دارد؛ «نیکی» امسال، در ماه آوریل، وقتی روز‌ها هنوز سرد بود، و سوزن‌ریز باران بیداد می‌کرد، به دیدنم آمد؛ شاید هم می‌خواست بیشتر پیشم بماند، نمی‌دانم؛ اما خانهٔ من در بیرون شهر و سکوتی که آن را در بر گرفته بود، حوصله‌ اش را سر برد، و چیزی نگذشت که آشکارا برای بازگشت به «لندن» بی‌تابی می‌کرد؛ بی‌حوصله به صفحه‌ های کلاسیکم گوش می‌داد، و خودش را با مجلات گوناگون، مشغول می‌کرد؛ تلفن مرتب برایش به صدا درمی‌آمد، از روی فرش جستی می‌زد – اندام لاغر و استخوانیش، به پیراهن تنگش چسبیده بود – و همیشه حواسش جمع ب��د، که در را پشت سرش ببندد، تا حرف‌هایش خدای نکرده به گوشم نرسد؛ بعد از پنج روز رفت…)؛ پایان

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 03/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 28/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,102 reviews7,215 followers
September 10, 2022
[Edited for spoilers and typos 9/10/22]

A Japanese-born woman living in England reminisces with her daughter about the woman’s memories of life in Japan in Nagasaki after the war. The woman had two daughters by two husbands. We learn in the first couple of pages that the oldest daughter, born in Japan to a Japanese husband, recently committed suicide in England. She was solitary and anti-social, even to her family.

The second daughter’s father was British and the woman moved to England where her visiting daughter was raised. We don’t learn what happened to either husband but neither is around, so we presume…


The woman is older and has memory issues, which she recognizes. But all the memories she retains from her life in Japan revolve around a neighborhood woman friend who also had a young daughter. The main character was pregnant with her first daughter at the time.

That neighboring mother was neglectful, not sending her daughter to school, letting her wander by herself near a river, and even letting her stay out after dark in the woods. Several times the main character helped the neighbor search the woods for her daughter at night.

The neighbor was preoccupied with her relationship with an American soldier Her young girl was also solitary and growing up anti-social.

Ishiguro likes fantasy. It’s in almost all his novels that I’ve read. So what’s going on with all this symmetry of the main character and her Japanese neighbor? And the symmetry of the little neighbor girl in Japan and of her first-born daughter? Maybe a reincarnation thing? Or something more practical?


A good story that keeps you guessing and calls for a re-read of this fairly short book (190 pages). This was the author's first novel. He won the Nobel Prize in 2017.

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Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews737 followers
January 9, 2020
She came to see me earlier this year, in April, when the days were still cold and drizzly. Perhaps she had intended to stay longer. I do not know. But my country house and the quiet that surrounds it made her restless, and before long I could see she was anxious to return to her life in London. She listened impatiently to my classical records, flicked through numerous magazines. The telephone rang for her regularly, and she would stride across the carpet, her thin figure squeezed into her tight clothes, taking care to close the door behind her so I would not overhear her conver-sation. She left after five days. She did not mention Keiko until the second day. It was a grey windy morning, and we had moved the armchairs nearer the windows to watch the rain falling on my garden. ‘Did you expect me to be there?’ she asked. ‘At the funeral, I mean.’ ‘No, I suppose not. I didn’t really think you’d come.’
‘It did upset me, hearing about her. I almost came.’
‘I never expected you to come.’

This is another Ishiguro story (his debut) full of mystery and questions, what’s happening and what is at the heart of the matter? Beautifully written, as I appreciate Ishiguro. Stories are ‘mingled’ and all has a subfeeling of sadness, melancholy and ‘something is not quite right here…’.
When I finished the book, I started again right at the beginning, to see if the circle was complete. Not quite sure. But I love Ishiguro’s brooding and 'still' writing, a dark and lyrical poet. Loved reading Ishiguro again…

It's the story of Etsuko, a Japanese woman, now living alone in England, dwelling on the recent suicide of her eldest daughter. She finds herself reliving one particular hot summer in Nagasaki, when she and her friends struggled to rebuild their lives after the war. But then as she recalls her strange friendship with Sachiko - a wealthy woman reduced to vagrancy - the memories on a disturbing cast.

Interesting Wikipedia bit about the plot:
Profile Image for Lea.
119 reviews451 followers
May 28, 2022
Even thought A Pale View of Hills is Ishiguro's debut novel, it shows the masterfulness of his craft in full display. Ishiguro here plays with his common themes of personal and collective memories, trauma and cultural differences between Japan and England. The main character, the first-generation immigrant woman from Japan now living in England, Etsuko, is found in the aftermath of her daughter’s suicide, reminiscent of her life in after-war Nagasaki, the town from which she immigrated with her daughter in a search of a better life. The tale is located in part in Nagasaki at a time when the city is still recovering from the terrible effects of the atomic bombing and in English, a somewhat pale countryside where silence and a slower passage of time prevail.
Etsuko is an unreliable narrator, that is questioning the choices she made in the past, that were deeply reflected in the life of her daughter.

“Memory, I realize, can be an unreliable thing; often it is heavily coloured by the circumstances in which one remembers, and no doubt this applies to certain of the recollections I have gathered here.”

A book is skillfully done in a philosophical exploration of our unreliable creation of past memories - the way we craft our own personal mythology, the mythology of intimacy with disturbing things of our past. In private mythology we almost lose a sense of truth in overwhelming feelings of guilt, remorse, punishment, sacrifices. Ishiguro masterfully accomplished that sense of being removed from your memories, as the person who you were when you created them, is not the person you are today - having a nuanced painful understanding of your own mistakes, things that you would do differently if you had another chance for redemption, questioning all of your life choices in the dawn of tragedy. But talking about the story of your life as is is never easy, and that is the way Etsuko has to distance herself from her own memories, making herself a righteous observer, because she was not an archetypical hero, the good persona in light of which everybody likes to think about your self, but a flawed, sometimes even cruel human being. Maybe the only way we can be objective about the story of our lives is by removing parts of ourselves from it, making ourselves observers of our past, and accepting the painful and the ugly.

“As with a wound on one's own body, it is possible to develop an intimacy with the most disturbing of things”

The novel talks also about the pain of a whole generation of people whose parents experienced the horrors of WWII, symbolically represented in Etsuko's older daughter, Keiko, who tragically ends her life in suicide. The devastation of the war is not only instant but long-lasting, making deep marks in the generations to come. A whole generation of people who had war trauma are robbed of their lives, but also their children are in a sense robbed of their parents. The second generations of war survivors carried the burden of deep transgenerational trauma and wounds, the ones that inevitably integrated through their parents, as explored in Maus (review here). The parents often are absent emotionally or mentally, not being able to completely focus on parenting haunted by their own suffering. It is about the decisions of a parent being reflected in the lives of children, the indelible seal that a lack of parent's love makes. Both my father’s father and mother fought in WWII, and that impacted my father's life profoundly. Ishiguro talked also about his own burden of having parents that experienced WWII, in a duty to preserve the memory of horrific events which impacted his writing;

”Did the burden of remembering fall to my own generation? We hadn't experienced the war years, but we'd at least been brought up by parents whose lives had been indelibly shaped by them. Did I, now, as a public teller of stories, have a duty I'd hitherto been unaware of? A duty to pass on, as best I could, these memories and lessons from our parents' generation to the one after our own?”

This is a deeply moving novel, and Ishiguro creates the nostalgic and poignant atmosphere of remorse, sorrow, and love without ever explicitly writing about feelings, which makes him a master of his craft, with a minimalist, almost restrained approach achieving maximum emotional impact, as listening to a melody that brings you up memories. With a simplistic style, Ishiguro portrays complex and layered things, which shows how great a writer he is.
His writing style somewhat reminds me of Graham Greene's in The Quiet American, but in his Nobel speech included in my edition, Ishiguro talks about being heavily inspired by both by various rock music and Proust's In Search of Lost Time. Being completely fascinated with Proust, he reached the artistic freedom to write non-linear trajectory of time - past being side by side by present. This paragraph perfectly captures the essence of his writing;

”My still fevered condition was perhaps a factor, but I became completely riveted by the Overture and Combray sections. I read them over and over. Quite aside from the sheer beauty of these passages, I became thrilled by the means by which Proust got one episode to lead into the next. The ordering of events and scenes didn’t follow the usual demands of chronology, nor those of a linear plot. Instead, tangential thought associations, or the vagaries of memory seemed to move the writing from one episode to the next. Sometimes I found myself wondering: why had these two seemingly unrelated moments been placed side by side in the narrator’s mind?….

If I could go from one passage to the next according to the narrator’s thought associations and drifting memories, I could compose in something like the way an abstract painter might choose to place shapes and colours around a canvas. I could place a scene from two days ago right beside one from twenty years earlier, and ask the reader to ponder the relationship between the two. In such a way, I began to think, I might suggest the many layers of self- deception and denial that shrouded any person’s view of their own self and of their past.”
Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,626 followers
March 1, 2020
Surprise, surprise! 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. Graham Greene (“The Quiet American”). The novel is tight, 75% dialogue, exquisitely concise, devoid of flowery sentences/descriptions, no bullshit and beautiful. Ishiguro is a (n enviable) genius, a poet, one capable of expelling tears and tugging at heartstrings. Now I have two books on my list of superlatives by a single author. EVERYONE, GET YOUR HANDS ON THIS: for THIS, ladies & gents, is how IT IS DONE!
Profile Image for Robin.
495 reviews2,737 followers
August 14, 2021
Right now, my mountain view is worse than "pale". I can't see a damn thing for the smog that has made its way to Vancouver from the forest fires in the interior of British Columbia. The hills around me are unseeable, which makes the timing of reading Kazuo Ishiguro's slim debut novel quite poignant.

When you look out and can't see clearly, it's disorienting. By day, the sun burns red through the haze. Nighttime doesn't settle into darkness. It's eerie. The world isn't as it should be. Mysterious. Whatever is beautiful is hidden. Almost forgotten.

Much of Ishiguro's novel is a gaze into the hills - the past, postwar Japan, after the bombing of Nagasaki, a time when our narrator (who is now an older woman living in England) is pregnant with her first child. The time is pivotal for the narrator. She's married to her first husband, and her father in law is visiting. She befriends a strange woman, Sachiko, and her equally strange and disturbed daughter, Mariko. Sachiko, a single mother, is in difficult circumstances financially, and is trying to find a way out of Japan, through a relationship with an American soldier who her daughter hates.

Each scene is laced with tension, whether it's an impending argument, or long held resentment rising to the surface, or physical danger threatening. All of it is contained within the constricts of social niceties - which makes for some delicately painful dialogue - but it is there all the same.

Characters talk about looking forward, never back, and what else can you do after you have lost everything? But regardless of the resolute forward gaze, these pages are haunted.

As the story progresses, we realize how closely the narrator's life mirrors Sachiko's, and we are left to wonder at the mistiness of memory, blending and making everything pale, difficult to distinguish. In the destruction of Nagasaki, the westernization of Japan, has the dust risen up to make the way forward a blind man's game? And looking back, the very same?

Deeply, beautifully mysterious.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Jean-Luke.
Author 1 book394 followers
March 28, 2021
Some books you really just have to read (at least) twice. Never before have I read a work of literary fiction more carefully than I would read an Agatha Christie novel. What can I say? I was determined to figure it out the second time around, reading for details instead of for an explanation, and as it turns out these characters actually have a special place on my heart, especially Etsuko and Ogata-san and their teasing relationship. What was I smoking the first time around? I just wanted answers, instant gratification was my crime, and having finished the second read I believe I have found (some of) them, and made peace with the fact that I will likely be reteading it again at some point in the future. Is Mercury still in retrograde?

Initial review from Somewhere in the Twilight Zone...

Hmmm...(how I wish I could just leave it at that). After reading the amazing An Artist of the Floating World I wasn't planning on reading another Ishiguro right away because how could it possibly compare? But I did, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it yet. Might have to reread it at some point in order to entirely appreciate it. I read the first chapter with skepticism, and then somehow chapter two followed. And three, and four, and five. How can a book in which so little happens be so readable? I did find it less focused(?) than An Artist of the Floating World, especially in the middle, and perhaps expected too much regarding the 'twist.' Was that really it? Ishiguro's narrators aren't charming, his plots aren't nailbiters, but his books all have a certain magic. Yes, I think that must be it: the answer is magic.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
June 12, 2018
Ishiguro’s first novel is an intriguing read. If anything, it shows how much promise he had as an author and how much he could offer the literary world as he honed his skills.

The Pale View of Hills is a very implicit book, and the conclusions I took from it may not even be conclusions at all. It’s a story that made me think, and it even made me re-read it when I finished. And that’s the problem: the cleverness of this is not revealed until the very end. There are three paragraphs in the penultimate chapter that (perhaps) change the entire story.

"Memory, I realize, can be an unreliable thing; often it is heavily coloured by the circumstances in which one remembers, and no doubt this applies to certain of the recollections I have gathered here."

Up to that point it all seemed rather ordinary. I was waiting for something big to happen and it came far too late. By the time it did, I was already quite bored with the story and ready to move onto a new book. For me, it was a real shame. I would have liked more suggestions through the book. On my second read, I found not a single shred of evidence or hint about what we learn at the end. It came rather quick and stopped me dead in my tracks even if it is a very, very cleaver device.

If I’m being cryptic, it’s because I don’t want to ruin the it all for you though I do really think Ishiguro learnt from this book. All the major themes he replicates across his writing are here in a very early form. He explores memory and regret in a way no other writer can. It’s the things he doesn’t say that make his writing so powerful. We can imply from it that the characters are full of regret, we can assume, but he does not state it anywhere: he doesn’t need to. And this is something he delivered with a masterful stroke in The Remains of the Day. He really grew as an artist.

So I recommend this to those that like his later books and really want to see how far he has come, though I do warn you this is not executed with the same level of skill he would later wield.
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
July 18, 2012
I have a friend here on Goodreads who reads the books of the authors he fancies chronologically. I admire his tenacity and discipline. Even if I have all the author's works in my bookshelves, I still always pick first his most famous work. My reason is that if I die soon, at least, I've already read the author's masterpiece.

I think I liked Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day (4 stars) and Never Let Me Go (4 stars) that almost all of his other works seem to be mediocre. It's like that I've fallen in love with a beautiful woman and all of the other girls around are incomparable if not downright ugly. I know I should have stopped after reading his collection of short stories, Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (3 stars) but his other 3 books are also 1001 and many of my friends in my book club are raving about Remains as it is our book for this month, July 2012, so I resumed reading his other works.

I am not pulling your leg. Check my profile. Among my favorite ever books are Lolita, The Golden Notebook: Perennial Classics edition, The Wars and Embers and I have many of those authors' (Nabokov, Lessing, Findley and Marai respectively) other books in my tbr piles at home. However, I am afraid that I would dislike those other books because I liked their masterpieces very much.

This is not the first time this happened. I used to adore Haruki Murakami, C.S. Lewis, and Ken Follett, until I read many of their books and now I am losing my interest on their other works. I think the only ones who have so far survived this feeling are Ian McEwan (5 books and still to disappoint), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (4 books and still among my favorites), J.R.R. Tolkien (4 books if LOTR is counted as 3), Paul Auster (4 books and still hangs there) and John Steinbeck (3 books and I am still insatiable).

For me, Kazuo Ishiguro, unfortunately, is not among them. This book, A Pale View of the Hills, in my opinion, is not at par as his more famous works. The only reason why I am not rating this with 1 star is that some of my friends (who still admire Ishiguro) will definitely find my above reason flimsy and I don't want to lose them. However, I know what I feel as a reader and I am entitled to my own opinion and they are my friends and true friendship is not measured by how many books they both liked or disliked.

You see, this book was Ishiguro's first and this won the 1982 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize (that has been superseded by Ondaatje Prize). I would imagine Ishiguro's feeling then. His first novel immediately winning an annual literary award given by Royal Society of Literature. He must have said to himself: "It worked! They liked my style! They liked my formula! I should use it again!"

And so he did.

Based on the first 5 books I've read this is his ta-da! formula: (A) first-person unreliable narrator plus (B) open-ended almost absent denouement plus (C) narrator recalling the past plus (D) interplay between past and present plus (E) detached and quiet narrative equals Kazuo Ishiguro's style.

There's nothing wrong with having a distinctive style, right? Dickens has his fondness for details, Steinbeck always has his dear California as setting and J.M.Coetzee has his Costello as his favorite recurring character. It's like the authors establishing their trademark and making it their competitive advantage, i.e., something that when you read their work, even if you cover all the titles and the author's name on the book, you would still easily identify who wrote it.

Overall, this is an okay book. Not bad for a first book. I just can't help myself to like it because of the following reasons:
1. Many loose ends are not explained. Examples: Why did Keiko kill herself? When did Etsuko get married to her second husband? Others may say that these are inconsequential but these, in my opinion, are vital to the story to establish what kind of wife and mother Etsuko was. Ishiguro made use of her unreliability as an excuse for his style. When I closed the book I had the feeling that he did not know how to end his book that was why he left it open ended. But it worked, it won an award. So, from then on, he made sure all of his succeeding books are open ended.

2. Even when the characters are Japanese and have never been to Britain, they talk like British. I have been to Japan thrice and as part of my work for so many years, I have been communicating with Japanese. In this book, the characters say "certainly", "lovely", "wonderful" or "Why, of course, Etsuko." That "Why" that starts a response caught my attention while reading. Japanese do not use that. They normally just say "Yes" (like when they snappily say "Hai!"). They normally don't use flowery words. Think about Haruki Murakami's novels, and you know what I mean.

3. Although I liked the overall style of the book: the hallucinatory guilt of the mother whose elder daughter Keiko killed herself presumably because she was uprooted from her native land, I've read and loved two more powerful depiction of extreme sadness and loneliness of women who have just loss their loved ones in Janice Galloway's The Trick Is to Keep Breathing and Lydia Davis's The End of the Story. Even my brother's favorite book, Jean Rhys's Good Morning, Midnight has captured better the melancholy emotion of a woman in the height of her sadness and despair over a loved one. For me, Ishiguro is better when his first person unreliable narrator is a male instead of a female. There are just some emotions that fail to transfer to me when a male author is trying to make me believe that the female narrator is sad, hallucinating and probably contemplating on suicide. I could taste a tinge of deception and dishonesty at the tip of my tongue.
However, I do not blame others for liking this book. Ishiguro's style is his and who am I to challenge it. It's just that I'd rather have variety in my reading. I do not want to keep on reading the same plot with only few of the elements changed. When I open a book, I would always like to be engaged and if this is not asking for too much... to be surprised. Beautifully surprised.
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books971 followers
January 21, 2019
Didn't work for me, unfortunately. I need more than subtle hints at mystery to keep me interested. I was annoyed that virtually the entire novel was told through dialogue. Worse, so much of the dialogue seemed irrelevant. Filtering out the nonsense to find intrigue took too much work. Still, there were some well-crafted scenes so it wasn't all bad. And, thankfully, it is a very slim novel. I'm sure some readers will love it, but beware if you aren't a fan of subtle.
Profile Image for Henk.
875 reviews
August 7, 2022
Deeply unsettling how this novel shows the human cost of war reverberating
“Memory, I realize, can be an unreliable thing; often it is heavily coloured by the circumstances in which one remembers, and no doubt this applies to certain of the recollections I have gathered here.”

The time and period the book is set in, Nagasaki just after the second world war, is very interesting. The characters, even the youngest, all struggle with memories from the war (most chillingly culminating in a recollection of how a desperate woman drowned her baby in wartime Tokyo) and the people they’ve lost. Most of the story is told through dialogue, that quite often has a strange repetition of denials in them, up to three time phrases seem to be repeated, like it is only proper to say what you really want or need from each other after someone urged you three times to speak out.

Sechiko as a fallen rich woman befriends Etsuko, the pregnant narrator. I found it hard to pinpoint why exactly they were friends, given Sechiko mostly talks about the better life she had, her plans to move with an American to the US and, despite her persistent proclamations that the wellbeing of her daughter Mariko is most dear to her, spends most of her time in the Nagasaki nightlife. Sachiko often looks down at others who try too pick up their lives, but has no clue how to get ahead alone herself; during the whole book she is never not being moved around by either her American boyfriend or her uncle.

Drowning cats or caring for them, a dilemma for Sachiko at the end of the book, was another scene which was acutely emotionally scarring and carried real emotional weight.
A more minor character is the father in law of Etsuko, who is yearning for a simpler and more authoritarian Japan. He feels like a clear foreshadowing of the main character of the next book of Ishiguro, An Artist of The Floating World.

Nagasaki just after World War II is however not the only time and place the story is set in. Etsuko also narrates from England how one of her daughters, Nikki, visit her after the suicide of Keiko. Very little happens or is explained in these short section, except that a feeling of melancholy rules in the house of Etsuko.

Plot twist or why I stayed up an hour after finishing the book, just thinking: WTF
“Do you belief that, only for a second, I think that I am a good mother for her?”
During the story you feel that Etsuko walking around and visiting Sachiko so often, while pregnant, and with quite a grumpy husband at home, is a bit odd. Also no government childcare service goes after Mariko skipping school. However nothing could prepare me for the ending of this book, an ending that is very uncanny and creepy, especially since the largest part of the book is calm, reflective and collected.

When I finished this book I was amazed and bewildered, a very deserving four stars read!
Profile Image for سـارا.
249 reviews240 followers
December 20, 2018
به انتهای کتاب که رسیدم منتظر کشف چیزی بودم، دلیلی برای روایت خاطرات گذشته راوی و‌ اتفاقی که برای دخترش افتاده، و خب بعد از کمی فکر کردن و کنار هم گذاشتن بخش های مختلف پیداش کردم.
بنظرم این قدرت قلم فوق العاده ایشی گوروئه که سرنخ ها رو به خواننده میده ولی قضاوت و تصمیم نهایی رو به عهده خودش میذاره. کتاب ایراد ترجمه‌ای داشت که اگر نبود تو همون صفحات پایانی گره داستان باز میشد.
یک روزه خوندمش و لذت بردم و احساس میکنم بعد از خوندن سه کتاب، می تونم «کازوئو ایشی گورو» رو یکی از نویسندگان مورد علاقه ام بدونم !
Profile Image for Arash.
250 reviews98 followers
September 10, 2023
حتما تا به حال بسیار به این فکر کرده اید که مهاجرت راه نجاتی است برای شما آن هم به هر قیمتی که شده، آیا از عواقب واپسین آن آگاهی دارید؟ خیر هیچ کس نمی داند چه خواهد شد، شاید تنها راه نجات خویش را این می دانید و تنها تیری است در تاریکی، پس هر اتفاقی که بعد برایتان اتفاق بیفتد نبایست خود را به خاطرش سرزنش و ملامت کنید.
ایشی گورو باز مدام زمان و راوی اش را تغییر می دهد، خواننده را در رؤیا و واقعیت معلق می‌گذارد و تفکیک هر کدام از دیگری کاری دشوار است. شاید بشود کتاب را "داستان یک مرگ نامید" و شاید چندین مرگ.
وقتی انسان توانایی روبرو شدن با واقعیات را ندارد و از سخن گفتن به صورتی که فاعل و راوی خودش باشد ابا دارد، به همین علت راوی و فاعل و شخصیت ها را خیالی می سازد تا راوی پشیمانی اش از کاری باشد که عاقبتش به خودکشی دختر او بر می گردد، دختری که او را از شهری جنگ زده و فلاکت زده ناگازاکی به لندن می برد تا شاید خوشبختی اش را بنگرد ولی او را بر دار آویخته یافتند.
هر انسانی را که از دلبستگی هایش دور کنید بی شک وابستگی ای دیگر به دنیا و زندگی اش نخواهد داشت و آن را پوچ و واهی می بیند و همین می شود مسبب مرگ، خواه دلبستگی بزرگ باشد خواه کوچک و ناچیز به مانند دلبستگی به چند گربه که مادر با غرق کردن و کشتن آن ها در عین بی تفاوتی و بی مهری به دخترش او را نا امید از زندگی کرد.
نکته دیگری که ایشی گورو در این کتاب که اولین کتاب او هم هست به آن پرداخته تغییر در نوع نگرش و فرهنگ و سنت هاست. جایی که زنان می توانند بر خلاف عقیده و نظر شوهرشان به دو رقیب متفاوت رای دهند یا تغییر در نوع نظام آموزشی و دوری از اسطوره سازی و سنت گرایی، این همان چیزی است که ژاپن جنگ زده را به یک باره متحول می کند، همین نوع نگاه متفاوت نسبت به تمامی مسائل جامعه چه فرهنگی چه اقتصادی و چه اجتماعی و سیاسی و...
در صحبت با بسیاری از دوستان متوجه شده ام که اغلب قلم و سبک و نثر ایشی گورو را نمی پسندند چیزی که برای من کاملا متفاوت با عقیده این عزیزان است، ایشی گورو را بسیار دوست دارم چون قرابت خاصی در نظر با او در خود می بینم، برای همین خواندن آثارش را به همگان نمی توان پیشنهاد داد
Profile Image for Emily.
8 reviews4 followers
December 31, 2017

A Pale View of Hills reads like a dream, thus the conclusions drawn about the narrator and the events she describes are more ambiguous then those in Ishiguro’s other novels. Unlike other Ishiguro’s novels, we are not only left doubting the narrator’s interpretations of her memories, but doubting whether they are memories at all. Therefore, this review attempts to separate the story that is presented by the narrator, Etsuko, and the “truth” of the events that lies beneath her unreliable narration.
That being said, I think it is interesting to note that the novel appears to purposefully be divided into two parts. Although there is no clear plot distinction between the two sections, since I had read Ishiguro before, I saw this as the secret for unraveling the novels ambiguity.
To begin with, I realized Etsuko’s life was clearly broken into two very different past and presents. The past, her life in post-WWII Japan with her first husband and the birth of her first child Kieko, and then the present, defined by her life in England with her second husband and her daughter Niki. Rather then using the two sections to structure the novel chronologically, the narrator, Etsuko, chooses to bounce back and forth from past to present in both sections, as if she too is confused as to the boundary that divides the two, mixing memory with falsehoods.
This can seen most clearly on the last page of Part One, when Etsuko is addressing her daughter about a reoccurring dream she is having about a little girl she saw on a swing the other day. Earlier in the novel, Etsuko suggests that it was seeing this little girl that prompted all of her memories of Sachiko and her daughter Mariko, however in this last page of the section, Etsuko realizes “something else about the dream. The little girl isn’t on a swing at all. It seemed like that at first. But it’s not a swing she’s on” (pg. 96). Most likely, Etsuko is realizing here that she is not thinking of the little girl, she is thinking of her own child, Kieko, dangling from a rope when she hung herself in her room. If this is true, and the image of the death of her oldest daughter marks the recollections of Mariko, then the changing of the pronouns at the end of the novel (when she addresses Mariko as her own child) suggest that Etsuko is aware at some level they are the same person, yet her memory separates them because of personal guilt or trauma.
If this is true, then the novel’s division into two sections becomes clear: Part One is where the memories of past and present exist separate from each other in the narrator’s mind, Part Two is when the narrator realizes she has created these false memories in order to hide the guilt she feels about her daughter’s suicide. In Part Two, the narrator slowly begins to meld these different realities together, mixing pronouns and switching names, because she is slowly realizing the truth, that “the little girl is not on a swing at all”.
Once the reader is aware that Sachiko is most likely the doppelganger of Etsuko and Mariko is Kieko, a few of the novel’s reoccurring memories begin to take on new meaning. To begin with, Etsuko tells of two memories where she goes out looking for Kieko in the woods at night and finds the child under a willow tree and runs away scared. Although these two memories appear to be different, Etsuko combines the details of each into a reoccurring collective memory. For example, although she only remembers in one memory picking up a rope on her way to find Maiko, in both memories Mariko appears scared and asks about why Etsuko is holding the rope. Etsuko later recalls a child in the city being hung from a tree by a rope, and reveals her own daughter had hung herself with a rope in her room. Most likely, Etsuko has these memories where the child is threatened by her holding a rope because she, at some level, blames herself for her daughter’s death.
Another example of these overlapping and conflicting memories is Mariko’s constant fear of the woman she saw drown her own child. From the very beginning of the novel, Mariko compares Etsuko to this woman, who she says also offered to take her back to her house the day after Etsuko and Mariko had the same interaction. Later in the novel, Sachiko reenacts (down to the same body movements and empty smile) the same scene as the woman drowning the baby when she drowns Mariko’s kittens. If Sachiko is actually Etsuko’s memory manifestation of herself, then she is reliving the guilt of feeling like she killed her own child.
Towards the beginning of the novel, Etsuko states that the suicide of her daughter prompted the newspaper to draw a parallel to the fact that she was Japanese and committed suicide, as if the two were linked. Through all of her attempts to rationalize these memories, it becomes clear by the end of the novel that Etsuko cannot dissolve her guilt of her past, her heritage, being the reason her daughter died.
This theme of the past haunting the living, is something that runs throughout every aspect of the novel: Sachiko’s haunted house being the only remaining pre-war building, the young families going to cemeteries with their young children, Jiro’s rocky relationship with his strong viewed father, the choice/regret of Etsuko not living in the home of her father-in-law. Mrs Fujiwara’s declaration of forgetting the past and looking forward to happier days is something Etsuko continually repeats throughout her narration, but it is something that she is unable to do.
This can best be seen in the stark contradiction of the opening lines of the novel (where Etsuko states her younger daughter is names Niki in order to give up Japanese tradition and “not be reminded of the past”) and the middle of the novel where Etsuko promises her father-in-law that she will name all her children after him and his wife. Etsuko is a woman who, though the death of her daughter, is attempting to forget her past by creating a new one that is devoid of pain. But like her youngest child’s name that echos the sounds of her past, Etsuko’s falseified memories cannot help but reveal the truth underneath.
The novel ends with Niki leaving her past, her home, in an attempt to forge her own future (deny the past filled with a dead sister by sleeping in a room that is not her own and not going to her sister’s funeral). The last line states, “Niki glanced back and seemed surprised to find me still standing at the door”. The past, Ishiguro argues, will always haunt us.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Helga.
969 reviews153 followers
August 30, 2023

As with a wound on one's own body, it is possible to develop an intimacy with the most disturbing of things.

Mysterious and eerily mesmerizing, A Pale View of Hills is Ishiguro's first novel.
The story goes back and forth between post-WWII Nagasaki, japan and the 1980s England and is narrated by a Japanese woman whose second daughter has come to visit and whose first daughter has committed suicide.
This is reminiscences of a mother encumbered by guilt; reflections of a woman about her younger self and the choices and sacrifices she had to make for a better life.

My initial rating was 4 stars, but as I thought more about the book and the characters, I realized this book is going to be residing in my head for a very long time; hence the 5 stars.
Profile Image for nettebuecherkiste.
518 reviews133 followers
December 22, 2017
Cooooooool! 😮

Großbritannien in den Achtizgern. Seitdem die Japanerin Etsuko Japan mit ihrem inzwischen verstorbenen britischen Ehemann Japan verlassen hat, lebt sie in England. Sie bekommt Besuch von ihrer gemeinsamen jüngeren Tochter Niki. Die ältere Tochter Keiko, die aus einer früheren Beziehung mit einem Japaner stammt, hat sich kürzlich das Leben genommen. Vor dem Eindruck ihres Todes und des Besuchs ihrer Schwester beginnt Etsuko, sich an ihre Zeit in Japan zu erinnern.

Damals kam das von der Atombombe erschütterte Nachkriegs-Nagasaki wieder auf die Beine, Etsuko war schwanger, ihr japanischer Mann versuchte, seine Karriere voranzutreiben und ihr Schwiegervater war zu einem längeren Besuch da, als in ein Häuschen gegenüber die rätselhafte Sachiko mit ihrer Tochter Mariko einzog. Sachiko ist keine Mutter aus dem Bilderbuch, sie lässt Mariko häufig unbeaufsichtigt, um in der Stadt mit ihrem Freund, einem amerikanischen Soldaten, um die Häuser zu ziehen. Etsuko freundet sich mit Sachiko an und achtet auch ein wenig auf Mariko.

Von den drei Büchern, die ich bisher von Kazuo Ishiguro gelesen habe, beeindruckte mich dieses – sein Debütroman – am meisten. Das liegt einmal daran, dass es um ein bevorzugtes Thema von mir geht, die Unzuverlässigkeit von Erinnerungen, andererseits an der meisterhaften Komposition des Romans. Für mich schreibt so ein echter Könner. Es ist sehr schwierig, dieses Buch ohne Spoiler zu besprechen, deshalb folgt unten ein Spoiler-Abschnitt. Der Plot-Twist verbirgt sich tatsächlich hinter einem einzigen Wort, weshalb ich empfehle, das Buch vor allem in der zweiten Hälfte sehr aufmerksam zu lesen, denn die ganze Bedeutung hinter dem Buch hängt an diesem Twist. Deshalb muss aber niemand das Buch scheuen, denn es ist, wie es sich für Ishiguro gehört, sehr gut lesbar und angenehm geschrieben. Lasst euch diesen kleinen Geniestreich von Ishiguro nicht entgehen!


Es geht also um die Unzuverlässigkeit von Erinnerungen. Diese machen Etsuko zu einer unzuverlässigen Erzählerin, die ihre eigenen Erinnerungen daran, wie schlecht sie sich selbst als Mutter ihrer älteren Tochter verhalten hat, verdrängt hat. Denn Mariko ist niemand anderes als Keiko und Sachiko ist eine Figur, auf die Etsuko sich selbst und ihr Verhalten projiziert. Dies erschließt sich in der letzten in der Vergangenheit in Nagasaki spielenden Szene, als Etsuko Mariko nachläuft und sie besänftigen will:

„In any case,“ I went on, „if you don’t like it over there, we’ll comne straight back. But we have to try it and see if we like it there. I’m sure we will.“ (Seite 173)

Die plötzliche Verwendung des Pronomens „we“ statt „you“ ist ein entscheidender Hinweise. Ein so feinsinniger und raffinierter Plottwist ist mir noch nicht untergekommen und hat in mir große Begeisterung für das Buch ausgelöst. Ich muss darauf hinweisen, dass es noch eine andere Interpretation gibt, nämlich dass Etsuko eine Kindsmörderin ist, die Mädchen erhängt, was Marikos Entsetzen über das in Etsukos Sandale verfangene Seil erklären würde. Meine eigene Theorie ist die gängigere und ich habe mich entschieden, dabei zu bleiben, es spricht mehr dafür. Aber vielleicht bietet uns Ishiguro, der sich wohl nicht über die richtige Interpretation geäußert hat, seinen Lesern auch beide Interpretationen ermöglichen? In jedem Fall handelt es sich um einen meisterhaft gestalteten Roman.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,064 reviews500 followers
June 10, 2022
I remember in the last year reading a novel in which there was an unreliable narrator. And I asked my GR friends if they knew of any other examples, and at least one friend cited this book. Funny just as recent as last week I read another book with an unreliable narrator, Dr. Faraday, in ‘The Little Stranger’ by Sarah Waters.

I was going to give this book 3 stars because to me it sort of moved at a snail’s pace, although I liked the writing. But then when I understood what the unreliable narrator was being unreliable about, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t see that coming. Excellent! 😮

So. overall and all things considered, this was a good read! And it wasn’t too long clocking in at 180 pages.

It was about post-World War Two Japan about 7-9 years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The summary in the inner sleeve of the book jacket reads as follows:
• Etsuko, a Japanese woman now living alone in England, dwells on the recent suicide of her elder daughter, Keiko. Despite the efforts of her surviving daughter, Niki, to distract her thoughts, Etsuko finds herself recalling a particular summer in Nagasaki. Her memories take her back to a time, long enough after the bomb has fallen for shoddy housing to have risen over the rubble, but not so long that the homeless, the husbandless, the fatherless are not still living in the debris. Etsuko remembers the struggles of her family and friends to rebuild their shattered lives. She recalls the strains between the generations as her ambitious husband forsakes his traditional filial duty to his slandered father. She relives the scenes of cruelty and inhumanity that represent yet another aftershock of the unspeakable holocaust. And when her recollections turn to her strange friendship with Sachiko—a wealthy woman reduced to vagrancy—and her experiences with Sachiko’s little girl, Mariko, the reminiscences soon take on a macabre cast. Past and present become fused in a haunting narrative of laconic poignancy.

Profile Image for ✨ A ✨ .
433 reviews1,791 followers
September 13, 2020
The first words to come out of my mouth when I finished this book was: WHAT. THE. HELL.

What did I just read?

Did what I think happened really happen? Is my copy missing another 200 pages or something BECAUSE I NEED ANSWERS!!

Profile Image for Hodove.
159 reviews171 followers
November 18, 2017
خب از اون کتابهایی بود که تا چندین روز باهام خواهد موند!میتونستم همینطور ۲۰۰صفحه دیگه به خوندن ادامه بدم بس که قلم ایشی گورو به دلم نشسته بود.
خب فقط یه نکته ای هست.گویا که مترجم عزیز کتاب دقت کافی در ترجمه مهم ترین و کلیدی ترین بخش کتاب نکرده و باعث شده به کل داستان عوض بشه؛اگر داستان رو خوندین و آخرش گیج شدین احتمال داره به این خاطر باشه.
تو ‌ترجمه جناب امیر امجد(نشر نیلا)این اتفاق تو صفحه ۱۹۰افتاده؛من که حدس زده بودم چی شده رفتم سرچ کردم و به این مطلب زیر برخورد کردم که ازش نقل قول میکنم:

«متاسفانه مترجم این امر را در مواردی با تغییر عمدی زاویه‌ی روایی اشتباه گرفته است. به خصوص در صحنه‌ی انتهای کتاب (...)اتسوکو عملاً به ماریکو می‌گوید: «اگر خوشت نیامد برمی‌گردید.»؛ که در نسخه‌ی انگلیسی «اگر خوشت نیامد برمی‌گردیم.» است.»
و همین ترجمه برمیگردیدبه جای برمیگردیم واقعا رو کل گره گشایی داستان اثر گذاشته.
من تو کامنتای دوستان انگلیسی زبان هم چک کردم به این تغییر ضمایر اخر کتاب اشاره کردند.
برای من این راوی غیرقابل اعتماد که تخصص ایشی گوروهه واقعا جذاب بود.تا ساعتها ذهنم درگیر بود
Profile Image for Deniz Balcı.
Author 2 books602 followers
June 3, 2016
Kasuo Ishiguro bilindiği üzere Japon kökenli olmasına rağmen; İngilizce yazan, İngiltere'de yaşayan ve İngiliz vatandaşı olarak hayatını sürdüren bir yazar. Haliyle bu durumda aslında İngiliz Edebiyatı yapması beklenebilir. Ancak İngiltere'nin, malum tarihi politikalarından dolayı, eskiden beri sahip olduğu çok İngiliz olmayan gayrikökenli yazarları mevcut. Bu yazarlarda ilginç bir şekilde, İngiltere'de başarılı olma yolunun, farklılığını kullanmak bundan beslenmek olduğunu düşünüyor sanırım. Bu çerçevede Kasuo Ishiguro'nun eline aldığı konu ve işleme şekli bir Japon yazarınkinden çok farklı değil.

Eser çok çabuk okunabilecek, akışın içerisinde güzel tespitler sıkıştırılmış bir kitap. Yazarın ilk romanı. 1993 senesinde İngiltere'de yayımlanmış. Kitap, ikinci evliliğini İngiliz bir adamla yapmış; biri vefat etmiş Japon kocasından diğeri İngiliz kocasından iki tane çocuk sahibi; İngiltere'de yaşayan, II. Dünya Savaşı sonrası Nagazaki'de yaşamış; İngiltere'de ilk eşinden olan çocuğu Keiko'yu intiharla kaybetmiş bir annenin; geçmişe dönük yolculuklarıyla, çocukları ve hayatla kurduğu ilişkiden bahsediyor.

Böyle uzaktan baktığımızda konu çok zengin. Birçok kod var yazarın işleyebileceği. Hepsini de bir ölçüde karşılamaya çalışmış zaten. Ama çok başarılı olduğunu düşünmüyorum ben. Bu bir kitaptan ziyade film gibi akan romanlardan. Kitabı okumadım, izledim. Mesleğim senaryo olduğundan da böyle bir izlenime kapılmış olabilirim bilmiyorum ama genel yapı, kurgu, akış; bir sinema filmi oluşturmak için muazzam uygunlukta.

Bunun dışında diğer takıldığım bir şey samimiyet. Savaş sonrası değişimi Japon yazarlar eserlerine çok farklı ve özgün şekillerde eserlerine yedirmişken, İngiltere'de büyümüş birisi için fazla kesin hüküm verirci gibi geldi. Bu da bende samimiyet durumunu sorgulattı. O yüzden biraz soru işaretleri olduğunu söyleyebilirim bu açıdan.

Ancak okuma zevki olarak oldukça tatmin olduğu için tavsiye edebilirim.

Profile Image for Marc.
3,110 reviews1,177 followers
May 2, 2021
A short but very extraordinary booklet. When you start reading it, it seems to be a rather conventionally brought story, told by Etsuko, a Japanese woman living in England, whose daughter has just passed away. The bulk of the book is a flashback to the time Etsuko lived in Nagasaki, a few years after the nuclear bomb, and was expecting her first child. She has strong memories of her friendship with a remarkable woman that lived in shabby circumstances with a little girl, in a cottage near the river.
After a while it becomes clear the story isn’t as simple as it seemed at first sight. The daughter of Etsuko appears to have committed suicide, and her other daughter is only the half-sister of the deceased one, from a later marriage of Etsuko with an Englishman. In the Japanese scenes Etsuko has an uncouth husband and a brilliant father-in-law who represents pre-war Japan and is at war with the far-reaching changes in his country. But especially the relation with the woman at the river is remarkable, because she lives a very unconventional life, neglecting her daughter.
Throughout the story, and in an accelerating way, discomforting and mysterious elements are interwoven, giving it a gothic feel. There is no real denouement, but in the end Ishiguro leaves the reader in complete confusion. Finishing the book, you ask yourself the question if you have been misguided the whole time.
There are a lot of theories on how to read this novel (just a dream story, a combination of traumatic hallucinations, etc) and what the main themes are (difficult mother-daughter-relations/ traumatic experience of the japanese and the war/the problematic displacement of one culture in another, etc). Looking at the reviews on Goodreads you can see that almost no one has a definitive answer, and neither do I. But Ishiguro in this debut shows us a mastership that is really impressive. Especially the lingering dialogues are intriguing by what is kept unsaid. I’m not completely satisfied with this book, but it certainly is captivating!
Profile Image for Nishat.
27 reviews415 followers
June 23, 2018
On the surface, Ishiguro's characters are in control. They have repressed their emotions and unknowingly in that attempt, prolonged the process of healing after loss. The war has left them numb and bereaved of loved ones. And in this remarkable debut, we listen to one of these survivors.

Etsuko's daughter hanged herself in England. Etsuko, our leading character is somewhat in denial, but nevertheless means to develop intimacy with grief, with her old wounds. Through her recollections, we go back to a summer in postwar Nagasaki where Etsuko has to scan her past for signs that may restore meaning in her present, solitary life.

Ishiguro's prose here exuding elegance is restrained, effective. He takes us on a morbid ride and discusses memory that constitutes who we are. Recommended.
Profile Image for Trudie.
544 reviews586 followers
February 16, 2021

Historically, I am a big fan of Mr Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day is one of my favourite novels and I admire his straight-forward yet deceptively elusive writing style.

There are a few gaps in my Ishiguro reading and his debut novel, published in 1982, was one of them. A Pale View of Hills thematically foreshadows much of the work Ishiguro will subsequently produce. His exploration of the deceptions and vagaries of memory, is a project begun in this novel and polished into a masterpiece in The Remains of the Day .
But putting subsequent works to one side, this stands on its own as a very impressive debut novel. Sliding dreamily between England and Nagasaki after the war, we are placed entirely at the deposal of Etsuko's reminiscent day dreams. Which leaves the reader plenty of room for interpretation as to "what really happened". I am not sure it is possible to reach a conclusive answer. I think, much like memory itself, the "truth" is often lost to time and shifting perspective, but it IS fun to read some of the theories.

What will stay with me from this slim book is the genuine moments of chilling, ghostly narrative inserted, quite cleverly, into an otherwise subdued and subtle story. In his own way Ishiguro manages to convey the ongoing generational trauma of war better than many novels that expressly set out to do so. This disconcerted feeling was inextricably linked to every scene Mariko was in. She is the most unnerving child character I have come across in some time and a cipher for post-war Japan in some ways.

This novel is one that grows in profundity the more you think about it. An imperfect enigma for sure, but one I enjoyed being puzzled by.
Profile Image for Hilary .
2,265 reviews406 followers
April 19, 2022
The story starts with Etsuko, a Japanese woman living in England, remembering her life in Japan before and during the pregnancy of her first child. A small part of the book is set in present day England when her younger daughter is around 20yrs old, the rest of the story remembers a different life in Japan, during the 1950s, when life was still very much affected by the bombing of Nagasaki.

The story set back in time focuses on Etsuko who is newly married to Jiro and befriends a woman older than herself who has a young daughter. The story seems to be focusing on the difference between the old ways in Japan and the ideas brought in by the Americans that things can be different. I appreciated the way neither way of life seemed to be put forward as better than the other but the acknowledgement that both had their extreme faults and slight advantages, maybe from this we are meant to gather it's best to come up with your own way.

I found the slice of life from this era and country fascinating enough in itself but soon began to suspect something else was going on. I loved the conclusion but it is subtle and some readers didn't enjoy the lose ends or the ambiguity of what actually happened.

This would make an interesting reread and discussion once you know the end.
Profile Image for Alan.
473 reviews216 followers
August 21, 2023
“On clearer days, I could see far beyond the trees on the opposite bank of the river, a pale outline of hills visible against clouds. It was not an unpleasant view, and on occasions it brought me a rare sense of relief from the emptiness of those long afternoons I spent in that apartment.”

A finely poised book that perhaps requires a bit more thinking on my end. There is quite honestly so much to unpack here, with the themes ranging from the depths of mental health hell and suicidal ideation to losing one culture and aspects of one’s ethnicity almost entirely when assimilating into another culture. There is also the “small” matter of discussing the tensions then present between the generations in Japan and specifically within Nagasaki, with the younger generation wanting to become more Western, more American, taking the good and the bad, despite the older generation wanting to remain and preserve traditional roots.

The most poignant part for me was this generational gap, but seen through the lens of the repetition of cycles by youngsters and elders alike. Elders draw closer, youngsters draw further away. Quite often, I had a sad and understanding smile on my face, seeing the attempts of Etsuko to connect with Niki, her younger daughter, or seeing the attempts of Ogata-san to connect with his son Jiro, Etsuko’s first husband. Both attempts were at least partly unsuccessful, but showed that a certain level of good will is required for the interaction to go smoothly.

Finally, Etsuko’s memory was openly referred to multiple times, and we were led to believe that while she thought she had sturdy reconstructions of the past, this view was not necessarily shared by others. In light of that understanding, it’s curious to see her seeming sneer and judgment when recalling past characters in her life, when she may not have been much better herself.

This is now my fourth Ishiguro book. It’s weird – sometimes I am absolutely unable to rank works by authors, but it’s pretty easy with Ishiguro. So far, my favourite is The Remains of the Day, followed by this book. Third would be Never Let Me Go, and last (and certainly not least) would be Klara and the Sun. Is it really true that post Nobel Prize novels are all lower in quality compared to other works? Can we think of instances where this is not the case? I would love to know.
Profile Image for Tessa Nadir.
Author 3 books275 followers
August 10, 2023
Kazuo Ishiguro este un celebru scriitor nascut in Japonia si crescut in Anglia ce a debutat cu prezentul roman in care prezinta ororile Japoniei dupa cel de-al Doilea Razboi Mondial. Apogeul carierei sale este atins cu romanul "Ramasitele zilei", ecranizat in 1993, cu Anthony Hopkins si Emma Thompson in rolurile principale.
In "Amintirea palida a muntilor" o avem in prim plan pe Etsuko, o femeie japoneza care traieste in Anglia fiind traumatizata de sinuciderea fetei sale Keiko. In timp ce o primeste in vizita pe cealalta fata a sa, Niki, isi aduce aminte de trecutul ei din Nagasaki si pe tot parcursul cartii avem flashback-uri din acea perioada. Pe atunci, casatorita fiind cu un japonez si insarcinata cu Keiko, intalneste o tanara femeie care are o fetita ciudata Mariko, lasata de capul ei si care a vazut cu ochii ei toate distrugerile cauzate de bomba atomica. Pe mama ei, Sachiko, o intereseaza foarte mult sa scape din Japonia agatandu-se de un american pe nume Frank, ce o minte si o neglijeaza de cate ori are ocazia. Visul ei de a ajunge peste hotare este o iluzie care o face extrem de naiva, insa si foarte mandra de a pastra aparentele. Mariko il uraste pe Frank si este lasata sa creasca singura si sa treaca prin toate suferintele vietii, acest fapt facand-o antisociala, inchisa si reticenta fata de oameni.
Ca cititorul sa isi dea seama si mai bine de suferintele japonezilor si de imensa prapastie care s-a cascat intre generatia noua, adepta a noutatilor aduse de americani si cea veche, care incearca sa pastreze valorile si credintele traditionaliste ale Japoniei, autorul il introduce pe Ogata-san, socrul eroinei. Acesta are tot felul de discutii cu fiul lui si nu intelege schimbarile prin care a trecut, considerandu-l nesabuit si lipsit de respect. O scena socanta pentru batran are loc atunci cand doi colegi de-ai fiului sau il viziteaza acasa si ii povestesc despre o cunostinta de-a lor care s-a confruntat cu o problema inedita. Sotia lui refuzase sa voteze cu acelasi partid cu care a votat el, in ciuda faptului ca acesta o batuse. Batranului i se pare inadmisibil ca o femeie sa nu-si urmeze sotul in alegerile lui.
In incheiere, cateva citate relevante pentru roman care mi-au ramas in minte:
"E tipic pentru femei. Nu inteleg politica. Ele cred ca pot sa-i aleaga pe conducatorii tarii la fel cum isi aleg rochiile."
"Nu conteaza varsta unui om, conteaza doar experientele prin care a trecut. Unii oameni pot sa ajunga la 100 de ani si sa nu aiba nici un fel de experienta."
"N-ar mai trebui sa ne uitam mereu inapoi, spre trecut. Razboiul mi-a distrus multe lucruri, dar inca o am pe fiica mea."
"Sahul inseama mentinerea unor strategii coerente. Inseamna sa nu renunti atunci cand inamicul iti distruge un plan, ci sa concepi imediat unul nou. O partida nu este castigata sau pierduta atunci cand regele a fost prins in sfarsit intr-un colt. Soarta unei partide este pecetluita atunci cand un jucator renunta sa mai elaboreze vreo strategie."
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