A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro

February 04, 2021

I'm decently acquainted with Kazuo's books. I read both Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day a few years back, and was pretty captivated by his writing style: calm, yet still extremely expressive. A Pale View of Hills follows a very similar style.

The book is about a woman, Etsuko, living in modern day England remembering parts of her past from when she was in Japan. The reader is told that her eldest daughter committed suicide some time ago and in the present moment, her second daughter is visiting her. Thus, she begins to essentially retell her own story, but from the perspective of an outsider looking in. Her own past self is put into the persona of Sachiko, a friend of hers during a Summer back in Nagasaki. The entire book continues in this way, her own story being told through Sachiko. There isn't a big climax, or even a big reveal at the end that this is the case. It feels more like a gradual understanding that dawns eventually, chapter after chapter. When Sachiko speaks about moving abroad, when her daughter begins to appear more and more troubled, etc, etc. I listened to this one as an audiobook, which was interesting, since so much of the story, or drama if you can call it that, is told through dialogue.

I feel like it's tough to judge these types of books. I really enjoyed it, I tend to like this style of writing, as I may have mentioned before. You got your unreliable narrator, a little bit of regret sprinkled onto the narration (which focuses heavily on memories), and a slow-moving plot that operates primarily through expressiona and dialogue. Obviously, not everyone's cup of tea, and not something I could read over and over again, but still good. My biggest complaint, though maybe it was on purpose, was how obnoxious some of the characters became in their scenes. Hearing Sachiko say 10 times in a row "Etsuko-san! Really, there's nothing I'm ashamed about!" was really too much for me, especially through the audiobook, where I couldn't skim these passages and heard them in their full glory every single time. Though if that is what they were going for, then good on Kazuo and the audiobook reader I guess.