~ Warning! Spoilers! Book Review: A Pale View of Hills by: Kazuo Ishiguro ~
In his highly acclaimed debut, A Pale View of Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro tells the story of Etsuko, a Japanese woman now living alone in England, dwelling on the recent suicide of her daughter. Retreating into the past, she finds herself reliving one particular hot summer in Nagasaki, when she and her friends struggled to rebuild their lives after the war. But then as she recalls her strange friendship with Sachiko – a wealthy woman reduced to vagrancy – the memories take on a disturbing cast. [GOODREADS]
I read Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day last year and loved them both. The characterization was fantastic and the plot had so much depth. From then, I added a new reading mission: read all Kazuo Ishiguro’s books. I found his debut novel at a secondhand bookstore in great condition, so I bought it. I read it and I was blown away by it. It started off normal but by the end, (I read the ending twice; the second time was immediately right after finishing it.) I was left with this lingering eerie feeling. Readers are left questioning and wondering why they missed all the signs until the very end. At least, that was how I felt.
Let’s get into spoilers. I don’t know what page it is in other editions, but for me, page 173 was a real game changer. I didn’t want to believe it at first, but there it was staring back at me. Later, it was confirmed when Etsuko said that Keiko was the one who had a fun time at the hills. BOOM! Etsuko is Sachiko and Keiko is Mariko. My life will never be the same. This book warrants a reread because this means that Frank, the American, is actually Niki’s father. I felt so betrayed by the narrator, but she did keep reminding readers how unreliable she is… The Etsuko the narrator remembers is who she felt like she should have been, and when she was judging Sachiko for the decisions she was making and the terrible way she treated her daughter, Etsuko was in actuality judging herself, sort of vicariously. Therefore, the narrator is the complete opposite of her portrayal and memory. First, she is a terrible mother to Keiko. Second, she’s a kitten/cat killer. Third, she probably has some deep, deep psychological issues leftover from the bomb and war. She lost all of her family and boyfriend, married an overbearing man whom she didn’t love, and was unhappy with being pregnant. Present day Etsuko forewarns Niki about the unhappiness that will come to her young pregnant friend. Etsuko is obviously speaking from personal experience. This book has so much symbolism and foreshadowing which I mostly discovered from reading analyses online. I think the major one for me was Etsuko chasing after “Mariko” aka Keiko when a yarn or string got attached to her foot, so she followed the little girl with it in hand. How did I not see it? Did you? Now with Etsuko being Sachiko, this means that Sachiko thinking that the noodle shop owner had nothing to live for because she lost her wealth and the majority of her family during the war is actually how Etsuko felt. This book offered so much layers and depth in such few pages. I was truly amazed especially by the reveal and characterization. There is so much I want to say and discuss because every single word has become a clue, but I’ll probably only do that after my reread which won’t be any time soon since my TBR is quite big. I would give this book a 4/5. After raving about this book, why did I not give it five stars? This is totally something personal, but I am not a fan of open-ended endings, and though unimportant, there were some details I would like to know that will never be known.