Rebecca's Reviews > An Artist of the Floating World

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
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's review
Mar 20, 11

bookshelves: historical-fiction, realism, sad, war, reviewed, art-lit, japan, favourites
Read in March, 2011

I read this book in a rush just this afternoon, I loved it. And now I'm going to try and say what I thought of it before I cheat and read other reviews! There might be some mild spoilers but as little actually happens they can't be too bad.

Basically, the main character Ono was a very talented and famous artist who painted pictures promoting (and possibly was involved with planning & carrying out) the changes in Japan before WW2... and now he's dealing with the guilt. Lots of other people who were involved were executed as war criminals, others commited suicide as a way of 'apologising,' and Ono has a kind of grisley fascination with these suicides.

Its never very clear how involved with the war Ono was; in the beginning of the book it appears that people remember how involved he was and hold him to account for it, but later on it seems that most people have actually forgotten, and it is his own guilt that makes him think that people are holding it against him.

By the end of the book, as Ono comes to terms with the fact that his past is gone, and that he is an old man, he seems to forgive himself. It ends with him hopeful for the future of Japan, after he realises that even though he might have harmed his country, he had been trying to help. So its a kind of bittersweet ending.

On a sidenote, I thought Ono's relationship with Ichiro, his grandson, was a kind of drawn out for his relationship with Japan; he loves him and tries to do what's best for him (eg by taking him to a scary film) but misunderstands and ends up upsetting him (Ichiro is terrified by the film). But maybe I'm reading too much into it?

A very recommended read!
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