Pale View of the Hills is a short, easy read that is spooky in a way that I could never quite put my finger on. Much is suggested, little is told.
It is this trait that is both a positive and a negative for the book. It begins with the suicide of a Japanese woman's eldest daughter, which occured in her current place of residence in England. Much of the novel, however, deals with the woman's recollections of her life in Japan, near
Hiroshima Nagasaki, shortly after being devastated by the atomic bomb.
One of my major complaints about this book is that said atomic devastation is really an incidental detail. Honestly, this could have been set anywhere in Japan, and the story could have been nearly identical. It seems, well, it seems like Ishiguro co-opted, or, more harshly, prostituted, such a historic event to create the illusion that his story has a deeper historical significance. Don't be fooled - it doesn't.
As I mentioned, this book is an easy read, which actually irked me. At around the 100 page mark, I began to ask myself/Kazuo, "So what? Why should I care about any of this?" It was terribly domestic, and I began to feel that my domestic energies could be better spent baking some double chocolate chip cookies for my girlfriend. However, I have faith in Kazuo Ishiguro, so I persevered. There are plenty of details that seem important (for example, a young child, clearly afraid, asking the woman, what's that around your foot? What are you dragging?) but whose importance is never clearly revealed. Key word here is clearly. The last ten pages suddenly bring into clarity what the reader suspected all along: this narrator is not to be trusted.
Alas, I cannot explain in full depth what I mean - but I will only say this: if you start this book, then finish it.