When thrillers are described as "gripping," it usually means mildly interesting. Not in this case. This novel grabs you by the throat and doesn't letWhen thrillers are described as "gripping," it usually means mildly interesting. Not in this case. This novel grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go until the very last page.
I can't say enough good things about the plot, characters and dialogue. An ambitious book that fulfills its promise and succeeds flawlessly. I've been following this author for some time, and I'm convinced this is her breakthrough novel, taking her into the wide world of international thrillerdom. Let's hear more from Jenny Morton Potts -- much, much more.
Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and came to the United Kingdom as a little boy. The theme of assimilation permeates his work, and many ofKazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and came to the United Kingdom as a little boy. The theme of assimilation permeates his work, and many of his novels (including "The Unconsoled" and "Never Let Me Go") are about characters who do not understand their origins, and struggle to find a place in a society which is alien to them. In Ishiguro's novel, the world is always floating -- unstable, impermanent, evanescent.
"An Artist Of The Floating World" is the only one of Ishiguro's novels which is set entirely in Japan, and which portrays, in some depth, three generations of a Japanese family. It is a wonderfully assured, brilliantly observed novel; but like all of his work, it is permeated with unease.
The story again touches on assimilation and identity. In the years shortly after the end of the Second World War, a formerly celebrated artist, Masuji Ono, is concerned to marry off his rather waspish daughter, who is in danger of getting too old for the marriage market. The marriage negotiations are difficult, and have fallen through in the past, since it is important that the two families recognize each other's status for the match to be suitable; and Masuji Ono's status is uncertain.
As a young artist, he achieved great success. In this novel, the phrase "the floating world" has a specific meaning, referring to "ukiyo," the pleasure district, a night-time world of sake and pretty girls which was the cradle of "ukiyo-e," the classical Japanese art form celebrating geishas and their clients; and it is in ukiyo-e that Ono-san has his first training. But he abandons this gentle, decadent form, and his later, "patriotic" works, extolling an ideology of militarism and ultra-nationalism, are associated now with a Japan everyone wants to forget, the Japan of expansionism, aggression, and a catastrophic war with America. He struggles between guilt at what he has done, and what this means for his daughter, and pride in his achievements; and more specifically, a denunciation he made against a "decadent" fellow-artist continues to haunt him.
In order for the marriage to come off, and for Masuji Ono to find peace with himself, he needs to atone: but how can he acknowledge his guilt without dismissing his life's achievements?
This is the basic plot of "An Artist Of The Floating World," but it is a book rich in many things, including an illuminating comparison between pre- and post-war Japan, and a wonderful portrait of the relationship between an ageing grandfather and his energetic grandson.
This is a very fine novel which will repay reading and re-reading. Highly recommended....more
A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. One of the most enjoyable books you will ever pick up
To any writer, Kazuo Ishiguro's "A Pale View OfA riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. One of the most enjoyable books you will ever pick up
To any writer, Kazuo Ishiguro's "A Pale View Of Hills" is a crushing phenomenon - a first novel that instantly enters the lists of the best books ever written. But there it is. Ishiguro's 1982 debut was incomparably assured, profound, and wise. More than that, it's a delight to read, enthralling to the last page.
It's one of Ishiguro's "Japanese" books - not only set partly in Japan, like "An Artist of the Floating World," but essentially Japanese in its combination of delicacy and steely strength, its oblique view of life, its devastatingly understated intelligence.
The story is narrated by two women, who are really the same woman: Etsuko Ogata, a young wife and expectant mother in post-war Japan, and Etsuko Sheringham, now middle-aged, remarried and living in Britain. However these Etsukos are very different, so divided by innocence and experience that they are almost separate people.
Both Etsukos are survivors of a recent tragedy. The young Etsuko has lost her fiancée, and much else, in the Nagasaki bombing. The older Etsuko has lost a daughter, Keiko, who has recently committed suicide. The two experiences of grief, loss and guilt are somehow linked in Etsuko's mind by a brief relationship which Etsuko remembers having in Nagasaki with a drifting demimondaine, Suchiko, and her eerie little daughter, Mariko.
To reveal the plot would be to spoil things for the reader, because this (like all of Ishiguro's novels) is a mystery - a gripping mystery which the author unravels masterfully and at a perfect pace.
"A Pale View Of Hills" is one of the most enjoyable books you will ever pick up. The problem comes with trying to put it down....more
An extraordinary achievement of imagination and insight.
In Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel, "The Buried Giant," we find ourselves once again in theAn extraordinary achievement of imagination and insight.
In Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel, "The Buried Giant," we find ourselves once again in the turbulent, dim world of "The Unconsoled," rather than in the clear, hard light of "Never Let Me Go" or "The Remains of the Day."
There are many of the familiar, allegorical elements of "The Unconsoled" in "The Buried Giant" -- a shifting landscape, peopled with figures whose identity is blurred because they can't quite remember who they are, and who speak in a formal, even stilted manner to one another; nameless terrors that stalk just out of sight; hidden wounds that refuse to heal; quests of overwhelming importance which cannot be fulfilled because their details can never be fully recalled; appointments that are vital and yet elusive. It is a frustrating dreamscape that can be sunny or murky, and which leads the reader through deeper and deeper questions of selfhood and identity as we follow our troubled and wounded band of pilgrims.
Unlike "The Unconsoled," however, "The Buried Giant" is packed with action. It's more dynamic, more deeply layered, and narrated by various characters in turn. Taking place in a mediaeval Britain falling prey to monsters and civil war after the death of King Arthur, it has many of the ingredients of Celtic mythology, including ogres, dragons and brave knights. There are ingredients, too, of fairy tales, of Jungian archetypes, of "Alice Through The Looking-Glass" and of Mallory's "Le Morte D'Arthur." It is an astonishingly rich story, which reverberates in the imagination.
That reverberation is unsettling, just as reading "The Unconsoled" was unsettling. This is a book which deliberately disturbs and challenges The Buried Giant itself - the deeply-submerged force of the unconscious mind in all of us, which is also the root of mythology and the engine of the self.
And beyond the Arthurian action, "The Buried Giant" is a piercingly sad study of ageing and loss of self. The main characters, Axl and his ailing wife Beatrice, begin their quest because they are faced with the erasure of identity which a failing memory brings: forgetfulness which can deepen into the blank horror of senility and ultimate loss of who we are. Beatrice is terrified of facing death in a state of being unable to recognize her husband or herself, or to remember anything about the long life they have lived together. Anyone who has seen the consequences of Alzheimer's disease will understand the full pity of this.
Ishiguro is a writer with a unique gift for exploring the areas beneath or beside ordinary life, the parts of ourselves that are of overwhelming importance, and yet are buried too deep for us to grasp or perceive in the ordinary sense. How and where he retrieved all this astonishing material is a question only geniuses can answer. Does "The Buried Giant" make any more sense than "The Unconsoled" did? I think it does, and I think that this courageous novel sheds light on the earlier book, showing it to be even more profound than we understood at the time. However, the sense it makes is at a metaphysical level, and one should experience this novel as one does a dream, without expecting it to go where we would like, but opening ourselves to the lessons it brings.
With this wonderful achievement of his maturity, Kazuo Ishiguro is surely heading steadily towards the Nobel Prize for Literature....more
A dark, gripping thriller about explosive events and personalities in a claustrophobic, industrial underworld.
A dark, violent tale with plenty ofA dark, gripping thriller about explosive events and personalities in a claustrophobic, industrial underworld.
A dark, violent tale with plenty of sadism and cruelty, Neil Grimmett's "The Hoard" has a uniquely claustrophobic atmosphere, like that of the grim old explosives factory, with its pits, tunnels and tanks, which the author describes so convincingly.
An atmosphere of suffocation permeates the novel. Set during the post-war period, but with Victorian overtones, "The Hoard" has some of the quality of steampunk fiction -- eeriness, complexity, alienation. I suspect this is a novel which men will enjoy more than women -- it's certainly brutal in many places, and has only one prominent female character -- but it's powerfully-written. It will appeal strongly to fans of the traditional British thriller. It's literally chthonic -- earthy and subterranean -- with several terrifying climaxes.
A fine achievement in suspense fiction from an author already garlanded with awards!...more
You wouldn't think there was much new to be said about pizza, but these two lads have produced an excellent and innovative book, and I can't wait toYou wouldn't think there was much new to be said about pizza, but these two lads have produced an excellent and innovative book, and I can't wait to visit their restaurant.
One of the astonishing things about Italy is how culture varies from town to town and even from street to street. And that applies to food, too. Travelling the minor restaurants and trattorias, Thom and James Elliot have picked up a lot of interesting new angles, not only on pizza, but on backstreet food in general.
Well worth buying, even if you consider yourself a pizza expert!
Update, Feb 2015 -- went to the restaurant in Dean Street and was not disappointed -- delicious and interesting pizzas at a great price!...more
Although Peter Robb's book is largely set in the Mezzogiorno, especially in Naples and Palermo, there isn't a better introduction to the extraordinaryAlthough Peter Robb's book is largely set in the Mezzogiorno, especially in Naples and Palermo, there isn't a better introduction to the extraordinary history of Italy between 1980 and 2000.
For those who didn't go through this period, let it be said that you couldn't make it up. The amazing antics of the Italian state in this period are touched on in such films as The Godfather III, and might be mistaken for imaginative fiction. Unholy alliances between the Christian Democrats, the Vatican, the Mafia, the banks, the police and the terrorists are traced by Robb, who is a brilliant writer with a style that ranges from deadpan Aussie to lyrically poetic.
Murderous, barefaced, corrupt and hair-raising as are the events he recounts, it is his love for Sicily that really makes this book magical. Descriptions of Palermo, the Vucciria and the countryside of southern Italy are hauntingly accurate, as are his accounts of friendships with the dour, complex folk known as Sicilians. As a half-Sicilian, I don't think any proper account can be given of Sicily unless one has a love for the country -- and this Robb has in abundance
I would recommend this book over more systematic attempts to explain Sicily, such as Excellent Cadavers. Anecdotal in structure, it is immensely addictive. I first read it around 2003, and on rereading it this year, immediately wanted to start from the beginning again. It's that sort of book....more