‘Klara And The Sun’ by Kazuo Ishiguro – this one isn’t for me. I set it aside at 25%

I had high hopes for this. The themes interest me: AI, Ubiquitous Computing, Big Data and Gene Editing combined to create an AF, a sentient ‘Artificial Friend’ who is bought to cheer up a terminal teenager and told from the AF’s point of view. This is Kazuo Ishiguro’s first book since being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The reviews say things like:

With its hushed intensity of emotion, Klara and the Sun confirms Ishiguro as a master prose stylist.

Evening Standard

There is something so steady and beautiful about the way Klara is always approaching connection, like a Zeno’s arrow of the heart

The Guardian

A masterpiece of great beauty, meticulous control and, as ever, clear, simple prose

The Times

I can see what they mean. The prose is simple and beautiful. It’s like watching sunshine on the water. Klara’s voice is pure and curious and engaging. Yet I abandoned the novel at 25%. I found myself asking ‘Why am I reading this? It’s beautiful but slow, has almost no forward motion, does nothing to engage my curiosity, doesn’t tell me anything new and is about as entertaining as watching a river flow gently past’

I was reminded of a quote from Austen: ‘If this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow.‘ I asked myself: ‘If this man had not a Nobel Prize for Literature, I would not read another eight hours of this.’

I should probably give the, ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ speech at this point. I’m sure this is a fine book and many people will love it. But I’ve been in various levels of lockdown for a year now, I’ve spent way too much time ‘in the moment’. I want a book that doesn’t take my attention for granted but gives me a reason to keep reading. ‘Klara and the Sun’ isn’t that book.

If you’d like to try it for yourself, click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample of the audiobook. Sura Siu‘s narration is a beautiful as the prose.

3 thoughts on “‘Klara And The Sun’ by Kazuo Ishiguro – this one isn’t for me. I set it aside at 25%

  1. Ishiguro has written one other book where symbolism and language is vastly more important than plot („The Unconsoled“), and even though I love most of the rest of his books (with the significant exception of the last one, „The Buried Giant“), your reasons for setting this one aside are precisely why I haven‘t gone anywhere near the above-mentioned earlier book, either. I‘m reasonably certain that this one won‘t be for me, either.

    To determine whether it‘s just this one book or his overall style, you might at one point think about giving his short fiction a shot („Nocturnes“) — personally I prefer his novels; I think his style is better adapted to those (as a result of which his short stories generally strike me as a bit „underwritten“, if that is a word), but at least the short stories have a recognizable plot … and by and large they‘re decidedly less depressing than his novels.

    Or maybe „When We Were Orphans”, which (though far from a barrel of laughs, too) surprised me in a positive way, because it refuses to be easily wedged into a particular box.

    But you may very well want to wait until we‘re a bit further out of Corona; „depressing as hell, clad in heavenly language“ is a pretty workable short formula for most of Ishiguro‘s works … including those with a clearly recognizable plot, such as „When We Were Orphans“, „The Remains of the Day“, and „Never Let Me Go“ (which latter on in particular it takes a hefty dose of masochism to love, but, well, suffice it to say that I was glued to the pages nevertheless and unable to move on to the next book for some time afterwards).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not that surprised by the ‘moment in preference to momentum’ choice. It’s one of the differences between Japanese and Western European storytelling. The thing is, the moments have to be worth the trade off. I don’t think it worked in this story.’Never Let Me Go’ sounds like a good choice for ‘Dark Academia’ in Halloween Bingo.

      Liked by 1 person

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