by Stephen Tall on February 20, 2014
I read The Remains of the Day when it first came out in paperback (I was that kind of 13 year-old) and have been a massive fan of Ishiguru ever since. The Unconsoled would probably be my desert island book because that’s the only occasion I’m likely to have time to figure it out.
But I put off reading Nocturnes. It’s the short story thing – I always feel short-changed, prefer to lose myself in a long-form novel. This is a collection with a difference: the 5 stories were conceived together, Ishiguru likening them to tracks on an album or a piece of music in five movements.
As ever, Ishiguru’s theme is our immense capacity for self-deception, and the bathetic ordinariness of lives which could have been so different. The stories are all diverting, sometimes comical, sometimes mournful. There are some great touches – such as the self-proclaimed cello virtuoso who refuses to learn to play it as she’s failed to find a teacher to match her potential: “At least I haven’t damaged what I was born with.”
Overall, though, I was disappointed: Ishiguru’s elegant, spare prose felt too slight, the characters under-developed, the format squashing the story. He’s incapable of writing anything that’s not great; but this isn’t his greatest.