As always, Kazuo Ishiguro delivers a masterfully written and melancholy work.
A middle-aged Japanese woman living in England receives a visit from her semi-estranged younger daughter, following the suicide of her older daughter.
As the narrator, the middle-aged woman, Etsuko, tells the story of another woman, Sachiko, claiming: “I never knew Sachiko well. In fact, our friendship was no more than a matter of some several weeks one summer many years ago.” It doesn’t take long to realize that Etsuko seems remarkably emotionally involved – if that was the case, and if she’s telling the truth. As the novel progresses, more and more parallels between the painful lives of Etsuko and Sachiko become evident.
It’s left up to the reader to decide what might be factually true – but the book is really about emotional truth – a musing on the idea that, as Ishiguro describes it: “the English are fond of their idea that our race has an instinct for suicide, as if further explanations are unnecessary.” The novel’s descriptions of the trauma following the years of WWII, and the details of how the social upheaval of that time affected the lives of ordinary people, work toward giving part of an explanation.
A sad, but beautiful and illuminating book.