This was dire. A plausible idea and good, concisely-drawn atmosphere, but wasted on unruly, lazy plotting and generally timeworn outcomes. One thing tThis was dire. A plausible idea and good, concisely-drawn atmosphere, but wasted on unruly, lazy plotting and generally timeworn outcomes. One thing that is always a very delicate area is a male author writing first-person scenes for a female character. And it becomes especially tricky in scenes that are intimate, or that have to cover sex or sexual violence. Suffice to say that those kinds of scenes are included here but go badly for all concerned. In this book we are often left with YA splashes of moody emo romanticism or melodrama, where a taut careful description would have worked wonders.
Nakamura is not an untalented writer, but nothing like that is in evidence here. This looks like it may have taken all of a few weekends on vacation and not a second longer.
If that’s not convincing enough, consider this equation: would-be psychological drama finds its best bet in large, gaudy Bond Villain antagonist. Who says things like, “You don’t know what’s happening? That’s fine. I like watching people die unsure of what’s happening. I’m in a good mood, so I’ll tell you some of it...” Please oh please Mr Goldfinger, save yourself the effort and just kill us first. ...more
It's hard to think of a police procedural mystery, from any country, that has quite as much procedure as Hideo Yokoyama's enormous novel. As with mostIt's hard to think of a police procedural mystery, from any country, that has quite as much procedure as Hideo Yokoyama's enormous novel. As with most procedurals, we move from station-house to crime-scene to interviews with suspects, but here we are buried in bureaucratic wonkery and in-fighting from the very start. The protagonist here is not a detective but a Media Relations officer at the police department, who was also formerly a detective.
There is reason to think that Yokoyama-san was after the same sort of calibrated, bittersweet-plus-rueful scenario dear to the heart of Japanese film director Yasujirō Ozu. A master of the understated glance, the conscience-stricken moment of contemplation, Ozu's characters often stared at us silently in a low-angle medium frame, shot from tatami level. Internal tension was prized above overt theatrics, always.
With an ensemble of literally dozens of characters, the author here looks to reveal the shameful farce of climbing the corporate ladder while not looking self-centered or ambitious. So that will be the spin-- somehow making the fascinating interaction (it's not) between Press and Police dramatic enough to stand up even while the crime is being solved by others (uhm, missed opportunity there, possibly)-- who are more involved than our protagonist.
Add to that the relentless calculation by everyone in the story as to how well their career is faring (generally not awfully well) at all times, how they might move up in the organization (it's a steep climb) and how, in spite of that, they can run their day-to-day work more excitingly (they can't). It is the world of salarymen locked into stifling protocol and wary oneupsmanship with their colleagues. Must have sounded better in Japanese.
You would have thought that nearly 6oo pages of this would yield lots of incidental color, facets and factoids unique perhaps to police departments or to Japan, but not so much. Here's the sort of thing we get : A serious accident had become a fatal accident. It had once been the case that accidents listed as “fatal” included only those in which the victim died within twenty-four hours. It was a trick the police had used to bring down the number of cases involving fatalities. The press had launched an offensive, and now the force integrated deaths outside the twenty-four hour period into the statistic. Hiding the fact that the driver was a daughter of a committee member; concealing the fact that the pensioner had died... It was a perfect example of the police seizing control of the process, from the beginning to the end.
Looking back from the vantage of the middle chapters, it's noticeable that like a lot of mysteries, the author also lets himself completely drop atmospheric color and location detail once the narrative is underway. Which is particularly sad here in that this will be read by many outside of Japan (and that with having those many pages there was ample opportunity). Another failing, as I read it, is that the author goes with a sort of 'copycat' scenario for the crime; this isn't developed till the endgame, and looks a bit tacked-together, (maybe in the category of those classics of the genre, the identical twin or the attack of amnesia) rather than deeply ingrained in the script.
If you are fascinated by the sort of moment-to-moment drama of advantage versus leverage, of incremental change versus the power play, then this is for you. If you had an immersive visit to Japan in mind, combined with a compelling murder mystery-- well, not so much....more
Poignant, at times heart-rending. A novella's sensibility within a novel's scope, Ishiguro's first published book is a small gem, a beautiful set of mPoignant, at times heart-rending. A novella's sensibility within a novel's scope, Ishiguro's first published book is a small gem, a beautiful set of moments.
Really just a conglomeration of impression and memory, the narrative in A Pale View Of Hills slips inobtrusively between Japan in the aftermath of nuclear war, and placid, green postwar England. But gently, and without capital-D Drama.
Ishiguro had made it the business of his telling to obscure or imply major narrative developments, and keep the consciousness of the reader on the momentary or fleeting impressions, surfaces, and small talk. So that the significance of the bigger things is felt, not said or told. In spite of its mostly Japanese fundamentals, it is really a very English manner of conveying the emotional undertow in the lives of the characters.
Can't really go too much in depth without reducing what is a very substantial work-- the manner of the telling here does a pas de deux with the arc of the story, and it is well worth being in the audience as the lights go down and the curtain-- quietly, almost unnoticeably-- rises. Five stars....more
I kind of liked this in spite of itself. And by itself I mean the unnecessarily self-loathing bits about bondage and humiliation.
Ogawa has a writerly,I kind of liked this in spite of itself. And by itself I mean the unnecessarily self-loathing bits about bondage and humiliation.
Ogawa has a writerly, palpable sense of the physics of things, the tone, texture and color things that we absorb but don't necessarily process.
And uncharacteristically, for fiction that can manage that kind of understanding of things, this also has an unerring sense of pace and timing that unfolds naturally, with perfect ease and conviction.
That the conception here required those in-spite-of-itself aspects-- left this reader feeling that 'should I just close the book here' impulse, in passages where the proceedings were overly violent, overly self-destructive. I'm not sure that the story really, really required those extremes. ...more