Posts Tagged ‘kazuo ishiguro’

2014 Wrap-Up

Before we set out in trying to somehow distil this year into five books, I’m going to say:

  • Each author can only appear once
  • It must be a novel (i.e. fiction, one story, mainly words)
  • One book per place

Now, without further ado, here’s my top five.

1. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – I kept going back and forth between this one and The Virgin Suicides, but in the end, this one won out. All I have to say is READ IT.

2. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – I didn’t expect the book to tear my heart out, but it did. Multiple times. I love the narrative style, and the concept, and the twist. Oh man, the twist.

3. Vicious by V.E. Schwab – I honestly did not know whether this book was going to live up to the hype or not, but it exceeded expectations, and I want a movie. Or a sequel. Or both.

4. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – Another one with a lot of hype, and for a good reason. This story combines fairytales and messy, wealthy families and gorgeous prose and it is probably the best young adult fiction I have read this year.

5. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson – I could not exclude this amazing, spectacular, wonderful ending to a superb fantasy trilogy. I was so blown away by how well everything was wrapped up, and the bravery of the choices made in this series.

Unlike last year, I have quite a few honorary mentions.

In the non-fiction sphere, I fell in love with Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, and I have not ceased to recommend this book to absolutely everyone.

In the graphic novels category, the winners are Blankets by Craig Thompson and The Arrival by Shaun Tan, which are both well worth your time. There were a lot of strong competitors in this round but I did my best to narrow it down to those two which have gorgeous art styles, really interesting themes, and brilliant choices in telling their stories.

Amongst the short story collections, I chose Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro, which hit me hard in the heart. So hard, in fact, that I have a hard time rereading that collection because it makes me so damn emotional.

Hope you guys all had great reading years, and we will see you in 2015!

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Nocturnes – Kazuo Ishiguro

File:Nocturnes.jpgIt was about three years ago when I read Never Let Me Go. Back when there was a massive hype with the movie (which is a fantastic adaptation, by the way, so uncharacteristic of most book-to-movie adaptations), I picked it up, because I wanted to understand the excitement over this ‘spectacular’ book.

I remember being underwhelmed.

I remember wanting to like it so badly, but I never felt that I really understood it.

I’d gone into it knowing it had won critical acclaim, and expected a droning and long and embellished writing style that took five thousands words to describe one chair and I expected unlikeable and extremely over-dramatic characters. I don’t know why. I expected it to pour out some moral message and poke me with it for the next couple hundred pages.

This hype had convinced me that this book would be some masterpiece I couldn’t understand for its obvious complexity that I could see, but not understand.

Never Let Me Go was conversational. It was simple. It was poignant and subtle and carried you along gently and easily and I was so completely confused by all this that I left the book feeling cheated out of what I had expected.

And this year, I decided to give him one more go, and I am completely baffled by everything I missed in Ishiguro’s writing.

Safe to say that I liked this one.

Summary

Five Stories. Lots of Music. And lots of other stuff, too, but we’ll get to that.

Cons

I’m still trying to understand this story so I have no idea.

But, quite honestly, I can’t think of anything I’d want to change.

Pros

There isn’t exactly a way for me to summarise what this book took me through.

I don’t exactly understand what it was that it left me with. Not longing, but not sadness. A mixture of the two, I suppose. The characters are not unique snowflakes that will stick in your mind long after you close the book, but that is the beauty of it all. They are so wonderfully ordinary, so foreign and yet intimate with the reader that you see them in the person you walk passed on the street, or catch a glance of a table away. They embody the universal feelings that everyone has experienced, or fears or wishes to experience, which is a sense of purpose.

Our narrators are young musicians on the cusp of what they believe to be success. They are people waiting for the long promised ‘big break’ of their careers, or perhaps we the readers are, because we wonder why we watch the more than ordinary musicians live their lives.

Nocturnes does not force a message down your throat, nor does it persuade you to take sides. It simply shows you a moment, and lets you decide what to do with it. It’s about the promised romanticism that music delivers versus the reality of life, which is luck and coincidence and does not always favour those who work the hardest. It is about a person’s passion for life and love, and how easily it can be lost. It shows you hope, and you ask yourself whether it really is delusion or virtue. Cynicism meets Idealism and one has to reflect on if one is really better than the other.  Whether greatness is really all that great, and if it is only reserved for the few that are lucky enough to stumble upon it.

It is a collection of stories that asks questions. That sense of the inevitable, of hope and longing and loss that it leaves the reader with, is not so much a reflection on the characters’ lives, but on your own life. It gives you a chance to reflect on your life, and on your own future, and perhaps the truth of what potential and talent and the promised ‘big break’ really is.

It is so powerful because while the characters and the stories may exist only as a trickle of music in the mind, a few lovely notes of some distant melody, that intense atmosphere lingers long after the book is put back on the shelf.

Quotes

  • “She might be a great person, but life’s so much bigger than just loving someone.” 
  • “If disappointments do come, you will carry on still. You will say, just as he does, I am so lucky.” 

Overall

Nocturnes is strange because in a lot of ways it is not about the story itself. We travel across the world and see these different situations, these comical and poignant things, with a common thread of music, and along with that, of losing the drive and determination to mean something, or perhaps clinging onto it for too long when that something really means nothing at all. It is a small and modest thing, it tells of ordinary people and ordinary situations, but that, in a nutshell, is the quiet and lovely magic of it all.

5 shuriken stars