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The Unconsoled By Kazuo Ishiguro (1995)

A concert pianist arrives in an unnamed Central European City in preparation for a concert that he has no recollection of agreeing to, and in a state of seeming near amnesia.


As the novel unfolds we are introduced to characters that at first Ryder has no connection with, but they then turn out to be key cogs in his life and all the action takes place in an ethereal atmosphere of unreality.


I expected some great revelation at the denouement of the book and imagined that the pianist was in purgatory, or some other unreal situation, given that natural law seemed at best suspended, but I was to be disappointed and frustrated on this count.


And those sentiments just about sum up my feelings on this Kazuo Ishiguro offering. To me, this author’s great strength is that he is a great storyteller, keeping it simple and allowing his characters to develop in a manner that allows the reader to make their own judgements.


The Remains of the Day, When We Were Orphans and 2005’s Never Let Me Go are all amongst my top picks in Literature, which makes The Unconsoled such a bitter disappointment as I would consider Ishiguro as a bit of a banker, as I would U2 or The Manics to be regarding music.


The main problem with this book is the pedantry on display as we are party to the totally pointless ins and outs of the character’s thoughts, all to no end.


Ryder has encounters with people from his past, as far back as school but in a hazy dreamlike way and nothing is ever resolved and we never find out what is going on and why.


In Never Let Me Go there is the certainty that the main protagonists are different from everyone else, and the author develops this layer by layer until we work out the truth for ourselves, but this just rambles in a futile I’ve Lost the Will to Live way.


Were it not for the fact that I was a captive audience due to being in hospital, I would have given up about halfway through.


 My honest assessment is that Kazuo Ishiguro has produced a piece of self indulgent twaddle in the midst of some great work, and to use a musical analogy this is Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief, and The Remains of the Day is The Bends/ OK Computer. Even genius has an off day.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


One thought on “The Unconsoled By Kazuo Ishiguro (1995)

  1. I hate being disappointed by a book, especially when it comes from someone who’s written something so great. I’ve only ever read Never Let Me Go which I thought was beautiful but I can most certainly see he could have the potential to tip over into self-indulgence. Unfortunately something which can be tempting when such a fuss has been made over you previously (as was the case with Never Let Me Go). If you want a recommendation try The Historian, I’ve been really enjoying it – not on the same level as Mr Ishiguro – but has been enjoyable nonetheless and sometimes that’s all I want out of a book!

    Posted by rebecca | December 19, 2007, 11:39 pm

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