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Kazuo Ishiguro: A Pale View of Hills

This is Ishiguro’s first novel but the themes that will become his trademark – particularly memory, its fragmentation and how we must all reconcile our memories with reality in order to survive – are apparent. There are two stories running in parallel here. Etsuko, the heroine of the novel, is from Nagasaki and remembers the period shortly after the atomic bomb, when people are struggling to get some form of life back together. It is there that she meets Sachiko, a formerly well-to-do woman but now another vagrant, and her daughter, Mariko. The second story tells of Etsuko after she has left her Japanese husband to go to England and an English husband. The memories of both stories are triggered by the suicide of Keiko, her daughter by her Japanese husband.

As in his later books, this book is essentially about how we reconcile our memories with reality. Etsuko tries to comes to term with her daughter’s death not by thinking of her own daughter but by thinking of Mariko. Other characters have other ways. Etsuko’s father-in-law in a way prefigures Masuji Ono in Ishiguro’s next novel, An Artist of the Floating World, in that he struggles to come to terms with the fact everything he stood for before and during the war has been shown to be wrong. Mrs. Fujiwara struggles valiantly to make a living for herself and her surviving son, while Sachiko lives with the idea that the American, Frank, will take her to America to a new life. For Etsuko, her daughter, Niki, is what is left and the way forward.

Publishing history

First published 1982 by Faber & Faber