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Preview — Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Klara and the Sun
From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, ...more
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As I read the ending with Klara sitting in the junkyard, discarded by her family, Rick's words echoed in my…moreThis answer contains spoilers and is LONG!
As I read the ending with Klara sitting in the junkyard, discarded by her family, Rick's words echoed in my mind: "I keep wondering if there was more to it.” Knowing Ishiguro’s previous novels, I thought there must be some existential twist I'd missed. I started thinking that a clue might be found in the book’s title—“Klara and the Sun,” emphasis on the Sun, which seems to energize the AFs.
The Sun couldn’t revive a human being … but was it really Josie the Sun revived?
We all noticed how sketchy Ishiguro is with details—such as the “lifted” technology and other AF and Portrait details—which leaves a lot of latitude for my rather outlandish theory that Josie was replaced. Then after seeing my theory echoed on this thread and in a Reddit thread about this book—with this provocative last line in that post—“I think if you reread the last chapter closely there are many hints which suggest that Josie did indeed die and was replaced - the replacement so seamless even Klara believed it was her”—I went through the book a second time and culled the following clues.
A caveat: Like any theory, I’m using as evidence all the parts that fit the theory and glossing over all the parts that don’t!
CLUE Melania Houskeeper’s fearful warning to Klara to stick close to Josie when they go to Capaldi’s (Melania has been told she can’t go with them. Why?)
“Miss Sal die and mess Ma’am up bad. Get me, AF?”
CLUE We learn that Klara’s hope and plan for Josie is that “Josie will become strong and well. She’ll be able to go to college and become an adult. … I’ll do everything I can to protect Josie.”
At that point Klara is talking about her Cootings Machine scheme; but when that plan fails because she sees other polluting machines, what then does her plan to help Josie grow up become?
CLUE The Mother and crying Josie scene where Josie says, “Don’t want to die, Mom. I don’t want that.”
“I know. I know. It’s okay.”
CLUE The first meeting with the Father, who obviously dislikes Klara. He later says, “I’ve never been good at relating to your kind.” When the Mother asks him to speak to Klara more, he replies, “Part of the family. Is that what you’re saying?” Foreshadowing.
CLUE We learn that the Father is concerned about what happens after the Portrait/Avatar. “Let’s say it gets finished. What bothers me is that I won’t get to have it with me. Because your mom will want it with her.”
This is exactly what happens in the ending scenes of the novel.
We come to understand that the Father can’t stand Klara because she is part of the Mother’s plan to “replace” his daughter.
Also, we learn in the Capaldi scene that Josie is in on the plan. After the Mother comes out of the “portrait studio,” Josie asks with anxious eyes “So what do you think?” Josie later says, “Be good, Klara!” as Klara takes the intensive survey, which is essentially a data download about Josie so that the portrait can later be animated.
Key line: We learn about this Portrait from Capaldi: “It won’t be like Sal. The new Josie won’t be an imitation. She really will be Josie. A continuation of Josie.”
This indicates the replacement Josie can grow and change and mature, as we see her do at the end of the novel.
When Klara hears about the plan to continue Josie, she assures the Mother, “If there comes such a sad day, and Josie is obliged to pass away, I’ll do everything in my power….I’ll use everything I’ve learned to train the new Josie up there to be as much like the former one as possible.”
Klara is told by Capaldi that “We want you to inhabit that Josie up there with everything you’ve learned.”
I assumed on first read that for Klara to “inhabit” Josie, Klara would cease to go on herself. But once she’s downloaded all her Josie data, why couldn’t Klara the AF continue on? Klara even asks the Mother, “What happens to all this?” meaning her body, and the answer is a vague “What does it matter?”
Then, we actually have Klara agreeing to the replacement plan:
“Until just now. I believed it was my duty to save Josie, to make her well. But perhaps this is a better way.”
Klara says several times, to the Mother, Capaldi, and then to the Father, that “If this were the best way to save Josie, I’d do my utmost. And I believe there’s a good chance I’d be able to succeed.” She also says later to Josie, “Perhaps the Mother thought if she stayed with Josie all the time, Josie would be less lonely. … If that were true, if Josie really would be less lonely with the Mother, then I’d happily go away.” Her reasoning, and foreshadowing.
[A different kind of foreshadowing on the drive home from the city. The Mother says to Josie, “I don’t understand why you and Rick need to go to the same college.” Later, when the Mother is in charge of the replacement Josie, she makes sure this come true, with no problem from “Josie.”]
My take about the scene where the father “helps” Klara with her plan, with his sudden idea to drain her fluid, is that once the Father understands that Klara’s plan to help Josie is an outlandish idea to destroy a single polluting machine, he plays along in order to secretly damage or “jeopardize” the gullible AF, the key figure in the Mother and Capaldi’s hated replacement plan. After taking her “precious solution” and supposedly destroying the Cootings Machine, we are told that the Father is “cheerful” when he meets up with everyone later at the sushi restaurant. Then, throughout the rest of this chapter, Klara catches him examining her carefully; probably hopeful (not worried) that he has meaningfully damaged her.
And then things take a bad turn for Klara. First she’s having some cognitive issues due to the lack of her precious solution, then she sees the second Cootings Machine and realizes she will not be able to ruin all the polluting machines and please the Sun. This is when Plan B—replacement—becomes real, even though Klara goes one more time to the Sun to beg for its help. We learn in that scene how muddled and distracted her cognition now is as things are all mixed up in McBain’s barn. This includes the picture of the sheep, who are now sad (symbolizing Klara?)
THE LAST CHAPTER CLUES
Josie starts actively dying, causing the Mother to chant her name in obvious mental distress, and perhaps deciding to move forward with the replacement plan. The doctor and the Mother have long conversations with the door closed, so Klara can’t hear what the actual discussion is. At this point Klara reports that Josie is out of it, sleeping.
It would be around this time that the substitution is made. What’s totally unclear is whether Klara ever can acknowledge this or not. Her crazed final visit with the Sun in the barn suggests she’s lost it and maybe isn’t aware of exactly what’s happening anymore(?)
OR maybe her begging the Sun for the nourishment is not for human Josie, but rather the replacement Josie, who would be susceptible to the Sun’s powers (?)
After Klara begs the Sun, she stares at the Sun’s reflection in glass sheets and says, “What I might have taken for a unified image was in fact seven different ones superimposed one over the other… as I looked at them collectively, the effect was of a single face, but with a variety of outlines and emotions.” A metaphor—maybe about a replacement or continuation of Josie? (yes, a stretch)
The scene ends with Klara saying dejectedly, “I knew the Sun had departed.” If she were still trying to bargain for Josie’s life, she suspects she has failed.
Next scene tells of six days of arguments between Dr Ryan and the Mother about whether Josie should go to the hospital. Is the Mother against hospital care because she’s waiting for Capaldi to replace her daughter? Or has Josie already been replaced and the Mother is waiting for the Portrait to activate?
Again I note that in the narration, which is very sketchy at this point, Klara gives no indication of a time when Josie could have been replaced. Although Klara does say everyone has been exhausted and disoriented for days.
Josie remains sleeping or unconscious. Is she already replaced?
Then it’s the dark day of the Sun's visit. The Mother is wearing a black gown (in mourning perhaps for the real, already-departed Josie?).
Rick tells the Mother the message that Josie earlier asked him to convey to the Mother at “the correct time." “She says that no matter what happens now, never mind how it plays out, she loves you and will always love you.”
"No matter how it plays out"--This sounds like a girl who is trying to please her mother by going along with the plan to “continue,” while also consoling her mother that her love will continue...
Then the Sun makes its appearance (with Melania Housekeeper symbolically trying her best to block it out).
When the figure on the bed, “lying on her side as she often did, her face mostly hidden by the hair falling over it,” suddenly stirs to consciousness, her mother asks how she feels, “staring at Josie as if in fear.”
That’s because it’s the replacement stirred to life by the Sun, not her daughter, and the Mother doesn’t know what to expect.
Replacement Josie (who we were told earlier “will not be an imitation. She really will be Josie. A continuation of Josie”) speaks as Josie and tells everyone she’s suddenly feeling better.
To close out the chapter the Mother says to everyone, “Let’s assume nothing. We have to take this one step at a time.”
This would make sense if she’s talking about the “new” Josie.
Suddenly we’re moving years ahead. We learn Klara is still around but relegated to a Utilities Closet, which would make sense if her old friend were the new ‘Josie’. We learn Josie has stopped sharing her life with Klara.
Toward the end of the novel, we see that “Josie” has little to do with Klara, but once comes to visit Klara in her Utility Room. It’s the first kindness Josie has shown her in years (unlike the real Josie who whispered into Klara’s ear, “Don’t worry. I’ll never let anything bad happen to you.”)
After “Josie” says knowingly to Klara, “I know how much you love looking out”—for a moment the two (artificial?) girls look at each other with gentle smiles. Even though relegated to a closet, Klara’s sacrifice has been acknowledged.
Klara tells us that the Father has turned up only once in all the years—as would be true if Josie were now the replacement. Rick has gradually stopped visiting, too.
When Rick runs into Klara, he talks about that day when “everything turned around” and says, “I keep wondering if there was more to it.”
“He was watching me carefully, but I said nothing for quite a long time.”
Is Klara hiding something?
Then Rick tells Klara, “…I’ll always keep searching for someone just like her. At least like the Josie I once knew.”
That’s because the current Josie is a replacement.
Then a surprise: we learn Capaldi, creator of the Portrait, is still in the story! Now he shows up to “look under Klara’s hood; open up the black box.” The Mother tells him in this scene “That wasn’t the agreement, Henry. That wasn’t what you said…. Klara deserves better than that.”
Was the agreement with the guilt-stricken Mother & Josie that Klara could carry on, albeit diminished, after her data/observations had helped “continue” Josie? Why would Capaldi still be in the picture here, except if it’s his “portrait” that is Josie?
He tells Klara, "I’ve never forgotten you, Klara. I know you’ll be uniquely useful to us.”
Why “uniquely”? This could be because Klara contributed to a successful replacement portrait, and is still around to share data.
Capaldi says to the Mother, “I just did my best to help you. I’m glad it worked out well with Josie in the end…. That’s no reason for you to be so mad at me all the time.”
An ambiguous statement that works if Josie is now the replacement. The rather crazy Mother probably never fully accepted the new Josie, just as the Father predicted. She would be angry at Capaldi, and probably "Josie" (and Klara, who she pointedly ignores when she sees her around the house).
We never had known exactly what happens when there’s a “continuation”—I’d assumed that would mean Klara would be defunct. But what if instead the deal was she continues on, in her confused and depleted state, occupying the Utility Room? Maybe that was a deal real Josie made with her mother—that Klara gets to stay at the house until Klara “fades” (or the new Josie leaves for college)?
AT THE CONCLUSION
In her last-chapter conversation with the Manager, Klara brings up that she doesn’t believe she could have continued Josie, and that she wouldn’t have succeeded since those who loved Josie wouldn’t feel love for new Josie.
But the fact is that they don’t. We learn that all those who loved Josie, except the obsessed Mother, stopped interacting with Josie in the years after her resurrection, including Melania Housekeeper.
That’s because Klara’s Josie data couldn’t quite pull off the continuation.
Klara tells the Manager at the end, “I’m glad I decided as I did.” But did we ever see Klara decide NOT to go along with the Capaldi/Mother plan? We only heard her accede to it.
At the very end, Klara the AF continues to fade away while sorting through her self-admitted faulty memories and perceptions. And “Josie” has grown up to be the adult that Klara pledged over and over to make sure would happen. (Shades of "real boy" Pinocchio.) So very poignant!
HOLES IN THE THEORY Klara never tells us when/how the Josie replacement happened. But then, she/Ishiguro skips over a ton of details, throughout. Klara’s focus has always remained on the Sun and keeping Josie going, no matter what.
Also, could an avatar really age, as Josie does? (Capaldi implied that would indeed happen… somehow).
So that’s my theory and evidence. Who knows what is really going on in this book?! I just think it’s fun to speculate that there must be more to the story than appears on the surface…(less)
So then I went to read the starred reviews from critics who raved about this book to see where I went wrong. I read the gushing Publis ...more
But too many things absolutely went so wrong! I felt like I stuck in mud and sunk deeper at each page! Eve ...more
Klara and the Sun imagines what the future of artificial intelligence and genetic-engineering co ...more
Because by the time I plodded to the end, exhausted fro ...more
Human callousness and the cruelty of forgetting and changing. All captured in a near future America with some very faint glimmers of hope intertwined
“Sometimes,’ she said, ‘at special moments like that, people feel a pain alongside their happiness. I’m glad you watch everything so carefully, Klara.”
One does not read Kazuo Ishiguro his works for literary fireworks on a sentence level. This is especially true for K ...more
We start off with Klara at the store, hoping to be chosen as the Artificial Friend for a family. Since she's a robot and the story is told from her perspective, her narrative comes across as a bit robotic and detached. But it fits the tone of the sto ...more
What you may recognize: the near-future setting that is mostly similar to the present but gradually we learn of some astonishing differences; the first-person narrator that is a kind of outsider who doesn't fully understand the world they live in; themes of ...more
Klara is hyper-observant, always watching those around her closely. Noticing if, say, a flicker of sadness passes across someone’s features. Klara is also an Artificial Friend, a lifelike android destined to become a companion for a human child. Is it empathy, the way she notices, observes, adjusts her behaviour accordingly? Or something else?
Ishiguro excels at narrators who are detached, almost affectless, without being cold. Of this type, Klara is both exem ...more
“Klara and the Sun” is sooooo GOOD...
There’s already a myriad of reviews describing the plot,
and/or analyzing Kazuo Ishiguro, or comparisons to Ishiguro’s other novels,
and ‘more’ analyzing of the characters, the narrative, and book cover....
Dozens of marvelous reviews...
I’m just going add that “Klara and the Sun”, is one of my 2021 favorites!!!
....loved, loved, loved every second of it!!!!
The audiobook was as wonderful as can be!
On a less subjective note, this book is great. Ishiguro looks at humanity from a slightly different angle than in Never Let Me Go, but seeks the answer to the same question: What makes us human?
Are we merely sophisticated machines held together by a bundle of data or is there something inside us t ...more
One day a couple years ago I was sitting at my desk at the library when a colleague came in and excitedly told me there were two men in a rowboat coming down the creek.
It's a slender and shallow creek and you wouldn't expect to see a rowboat coming down it, so I could understand her delight. She went to take some photos while I went about my work, declining to check it out myself.
That evening at home I told my partner about it, how Christy had seen two men in a rowboat in the creek behind the li ...more
The writing was the author’s usual, simplistic style that never fails to captivate me. Full of subtle hints that leaves the reader desperate to figure out what our characters are going through. Pages rich with nua ...more
Alex Clarke hosted with questions asked by pre-recorded video by Daisy Johnson, Bernardine Evaristo, David Mitchell and Emma Thompson.
Here are my notes on the evening.
The genesis of the story is a children’s story – for children of 5-6 years old that Ishiguro had developed. He has always been fascinated by the l ...more
I’ve real all of Ishiguro’s novels. My favorite is The Unconsoled, among others reasons because of its wit. For example, in one scene set in a cinema Clint Eastwood stars in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There’s nothing like that here. And I am reminded of what Martin Amis recently said about the necessity of wit (be it subtle or broad) in fiction.
(Throwback Review) The story of Klara, an artificial friend with extraordinary observational skills, and Josie will touch our hearts. This is a book which most of my friends and some well-known critics didn't like. But I simply loved it.
One of the controversial topics discussed just after this book was published was the writer's jinx after winning a Nobel Prize. Some were also comparing this book with the author's initial works. I can understand why some people didn't like this novel. Mayb ...more
Klara is an artificial friend, AF, who is powered by the sun and sits in the store waiting for a little boy or girl to take her home. Until one day, Klara sees a child approaching the store....
This book could have been great, but it was B O R I N G and S L O W! It didn't even have chapters. It had Parts. On the audiobook, each of these parts was between 1 and 2 hours long.
The prose was horrible. It was very staccato because it was supposed to sound like ...more
I feel like many aging authors, once great, like ...more
Longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize
Reading this reminded me a lot of my first time reading Never Let Me Go in 2013. I inhaled that book. I was so compelled by the world Ishiguro created and how he slowly doled out information. Klara and the Sun is no exception.
This novel has a quiet, almost nostalgic atmosphere that gently guides the reader into a simulacrum of our world, but with something slightly off. That dissonance kept me turning the pages wanting to not only find out more abo ...more
Do you believe in the human heart? I don't mean simply the organ, obviously. I'm speaking in the poetic sense. The human heart. Do you think there is such a thing? Something that makes each of us special and individual?
I wonder if there are any Ishiguro readers out there who will answer this question in the negative? Because it seems to me that this book, like many predecessors which have played in the same territory, is asking a rhetorical question th ...more
I wish I had quotes to put at the front of this review but nothing remarkable grasped my attention long enough to want to highlight it. I have such a strong dislike of this novel, I will not be caring about spoilers in my review. Read at your own discretion
Klara and the Sun is such a fitting title for this novel. I mean it is literally about Klara and the Sun. The novel begins with Klara, an artificial friend, in a storefr ...more
Klara and the Sun is the eighth novel by the Nobel Prize-winning British writer Kazuo Ishiguro, published on March 2, 2021.
Klara and the Sun, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside.
She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.
The book is narrated by one such Ar ...more
Yup, Nobel Prize winner Ishiguro gives us a novel written in the tone of a children's book, and while I'm usually a literary snob who demands at lest 1634 meta-levels to enjoy a text, I still really liked this effort. Our narrator is Klara, a robot equipped with artificial intelligence, who is bought to support Josie, a sickly, lonely teenager. Set in a future - and how near that future actually is is one of the main questions of the book - where machines ...more
Klara and the Sun presents its readers with a quiet yet touching meditation on life. In a similar fashion as Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro's foray into the speculative realm is deeply grounded in the mundane. Yet, in spite of its ordinary trappings, Klara and the Sun is a work that is brimming with ambiguities. Ishiguro excels at this type of narrative, ones in which ordinary scenes and interactions are interrupted by moments of unquiet. The near future of Klara a ...more
BUT I do feel the flatness of the tone in this novel, and the limited point of view--along ...more