K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > The Unconsoled

The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
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Jul 24, 12

bookshelves: 1001-core, drama, surreal, booker
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Read from July 17 to 24, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: 1

A long 500plus-page read but an easy one. You don't need to grab the dictionary when you read an Ishiguro but you have to pause, drop the book, every hour or two just to take a breather. An Ishiguro is a joy because it is like a silent but deep pond but if you love to shoot the rapids, it can be boring. What I am saying is that this book is not for everyone and judging from the reviews of my GR friends who have read this already, their ratings tend to go either very/quite high (5 or 4) or very/quite low (1 or 2). I am settling for 3 not that I am playing safe (I'd like to keep those friends whose taste on books is unquestionable) but that is really how I felt upon finishing this book.

This is a story about a pianist Ryder who is also the narrator of the story. The whole 500+ pages happened only in the span of 3 days. It begins with Ryder checking in a hotel located in a city where he is supposed to hold a concert. Over those 3 days, however, he experiences partial loss of memory that he can't even remember his schedule. He meets many people during his sleepwalking-like state including a woman and her son who happen to be his own wife and son and he couldn't recognize or remember them. The encounter with the porter with a long 4-page monologue that could have been delivered in just few minutes and the trip to an annexe that his supposed to be a ramshackle hut at the back of the hotel seems to indicate to me that Ishiguro is trying to show the unreal (the unconsoled) vs the real and so all those surreal scenes are part of our memories, the ones that we keep to ourselves because those are what we want to look back at when we are in the later part of our lives.

This is my 5th book by Kazuo Ishiguro and it seems to me that the theme of unreliable memory is always there in his first-person narrators: from Stevens, to Kathy, to Masuji Ono, to Etsuko and now to Ryder. Since I am now 48 (today is my birthday), I have no issue with this theme. Who wants to keep bad or sad memories? They will just creep into your heart and will lead to heart attack and so you die early and strain the finances of your family.

However, I also agree with my brother that this book has no denouement. But I think that is by design. The structure is formless. For some people, this differentiates Ishiguro from his Booker compatriots like the powerful plots of Salman Rushdie, the strong political themes of J. M. Coetzee, and the grandiose yet sublime attacks of Alan Hollinghurst. If these gentlemen always make sure that their female readers always achieve orgasm when these writers, through their books, make love with them, Ishiguro chooses to be different: there is a long foreplay and he leaves the woman to work her own orgasm. I hate to think of a married woman pleasuring herself. That is an "unconsoled" scene. But let's face it: for some women, this could be more satisfactory because they know their bodies best. Also, as they say, different strokes for different folks.

So, I suggest that let's leave it to her... at that. In the end, everybody's happy.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Again, a fine (and amusing) review!

Happy Birthday, Young Friend!!


Teresa Though I'm late with my wishes, happy birthday, K.D.!

I agree that the theme of memory is in all of Ish's books. It is one of my favorite themes, so probably one of the reasons he's one of my favorites.


message 3: by K.D. (last edited Jul 26, 2012 04:28PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely Thank you, B. I have a silly grin on my face while reading the word "Young" :)

T, thank you too! I am now reading my last (for now) Ish: When We Were Orphans. It is his only non-1001 book so this became the last. However, the opening seems better. The narrator is a detective (or about to become a detective) and he is reminiscing of his schooldays when he is being teased by his two buddies. Same banana but I am loving it. I think Ishiguro is a lot better if his characters are pure British rather than Japanese or Japanese-British.

Despite those two books that were just "ok" (2 stars) for me, I still like Ish. I wouldn't have able to finish all his books if I hated him. :)


Teresa K.D. wrote: "I am now reading my last (for now) Ish: When We Were Orphans. It is his only non-1001 book so this ..."

I think it gets even better as it goes along, but it does move away from England in some parts, so I hope you still like it when it does. But even if you don't, it's perfectly ok by me. ;)

There's a scene (not in England) that I found so brilliant I still remember it.


K.D. Absolutely Ok, T. I will slowly read that part so I can converse with you.


Susan Yes, you do have to drop the book now and then. One reviewer wrote that his hands were clenched while he was reading The Unconsoled. It's in some ways a physically uncomfortable experience, the intensity of it, the frustration. But God, it's beautiful.


K.D. Absolutely Susan, that makes sense. Thank you.


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