ISBN-13: 9780571245659
Publisher: Faber and Faber Limited
Published: 2009
183 pgs
Source: Library

A Pale View of Hills was published in 1982, and it was the first novel to be written by Kazuo Ishiguro. While I have his other book, Never Let Me Go, in my pile, I chose to read this first as I don't think I have seen too many reviews on this around the blogosphere.

A Pale View of Hills tells the story of a middle-aged Japanese woman named Etsuko living in England as she recalls her past living in post-war Nagasaki, during a visit from her daughter, Niki. As the narrator, Etsuko began to describe her acquaintance with a woman she knew as Sachiko and her daughter Mariko during her days in Nagasaki. Before she went on to recall her relationship with Sachiko, readers are well aware that there have been two marriages in Etsuko's life through the first chapter. Her first marriage was to a Japanese man named Jiro and together they had a daughter, Keiko. Niki is actually her daughter from her second marriage to a British man. During the time when Etsuko is living in England (there isn't any mention of Jiro so it was understood that Etsuko and Jiro had split), Keiko became withdrawn and spent most of the time locked in her room. She committed suicide later, and this was made known to the readers from the beginning because Niki was telling Etsuko that she doesn't feel comfortable staying in the room facing opposite Keiko's room.

This first part of the story tells a lot about Etsuko's recollections of her friendship with Sachiko and Mariko. As the story progressed, I found myself disliking Sachiko because she somewhat gave me the impression of being an arrogant and a materialistic woman. In any sense, there are also a few similarities between Keiko and Mariko as both seemed to be loners and harbour a sense of depression.

The story took a turn during the second part as this focus more Etsuko's relationship with Jiro and his father Ogata-San, as well as the latter's opinion towards the Japanese society between the past and the present. If you are feeling confused at this point, you are not alone because that was my initial reaction as far as the progress of the story is concerned. Etsuko has intrigued me with her recollections of Sachiko and Mariko during the first part of the story, so I was perplexed and feeling somewhat frustrated that there isn't further elaborations on them on the second part of the story. I also have to confess that I was actually more interested to read about Sachiko and Mariko than Jiro and Ogata-San, not because the latter wasn't interesting but there is something about Sachiko and Mariko that I couldn't quite put a finger on. It was only after reading the whole book and some pondering did I realise that not only this story is multi-layered but it is also how you interpret it in the end. This book makes a great book club discussion in my opinion, and I think this is the kind of book which you will either love it or hate it. For me, I don't hate it but I don't love it to pieces too; still I quite like the idea that this story would provoke some pondering from the readers and that has totally heightened my reading experience aside from being an escapism.

Have you read it? What is your interpretation of this story?
10 Responses
  1. Violet Says:

    Oh I didn't know this was the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Glad to know it's good.

    I've read Never Let me Go and I think that too is great for book club discussion.

  2. bermudaonion Says:

    This actually sounds like it might be a good book club pick - like a book that would be appreciated more after it was discussed.

  3. Darlene Says:

    I didn't know about this novel. It does sound good though and a good one for discussion. I've been debating on getting Never Let Me Go. Maybe I'll wait for you to read it first.

    Hope you have a great Sunday!

  4. Just from your review, I can see that this book is a complicated one, with many different facets to it. I haven't yet read anything by this author, but I do want to. Thank you for your wonderful review, Melody.

  5. Veens Says:

    I tried reading one of the author's books and never got into it... I think I should give it a try.

    Sometimes, it happens to me too that I want to know more about other characters and feel sad when they are not there much...

    Great review.

  6. The Bookworm Says:

    This does sound like a good book club read. There seems to be alot going on in the story.
    Great review!

  7. Julia Says:

    This sound like a good book read. Don't think I ever heard of the author either :) Great review!

  8. Iliana Says:

    I liked how you describe this book Melody and I think some of his books are definitely about a reader's interpretation. One of his books I've read The Unconsoled had me in suspense the whole time because it felt like I was in a dream. It was so odd but it was one of those books that the more you think about the more you appreciate. You realize it is quite different than anything you've read.

    I hope you'll give some of his other books a try. I need to read this one eventually!

  9. Alice Says:

    I like the one described by Iliana (The Unconsoled) and the one you mentioned here might be something that I would like. I have seen this one around and I have abandoned Never Let Me Go. I think I was reading it at the wrong time. I will revisit that again later.

  10. When you teased this a while ago I thought it was a new one by Ishiguro. I know what you mean by the love or hate as I kind of felt that way about Remains of the Day--which I loved. I just passed it on to my dad with the caveat that it's a really "quiet" book. Ishiguro is a master at writing but it's so hard to pinpoint exactly why.

    Sorry you were more on the fence about this one but you definitely have me intrigued!

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