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A Pale View of Hills

A Pale View of Hills (1982) is Kazuo Ishiguro's first novel. Its narrator, Etsuko, lives in England, and her second daughter, Niki, is visiting from London. We learn early on that Etsuko's first daughter, Keiko, was so unhappy in life she committed suicide. During Niki's visit, Etsuko remembers a time not long after the war, when she was a young woman, pregnant with Keiko and living in Nagasaki. There she met Sachiko, whose daughter, Mariko, was also very unhappy as a little girl.

There's something eerily evocative about this story. I wanted somebody to rescue Mariko, but from whom or what she could've been rescued, I wasn't sure. Through ostensibly banal conversations and accounts of everyday experiences, the tension swells slowly and moderately before gradually receding, again and again and again, which made me expect the absolute worst. Ishiguro is a master of subtlety, and it shows in this early work as it does in The Remains of the Day (1989), and likely in his other novels which I have yet to read. A Pale View of Hills has been described as macabre and mysterious. A review in The New York Review of Books calls it a ghost story, adding the narrator doesn't realize that it is. For me, the book itself feels haunted, and the writing is pure, with each word carefully chosen. It's a novel I'll remember and recommend.


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