Kazuo Ishiguro’s A View of Pale Hills

Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills was a tremendous read. The cover says “elliptical” and that was exactly right. It is very quiet, and not that much happens, but the juxtaposition of intense inner life with empty meaninglessness was… meaningful and thought-provoking. The kind of book where at the end you sit and look at the cover for awhile. One thing that was interesting for me was that about half way through I just read the last few pages, which I do not normally do, just to get a better idea of where it was heading. I remember thinking, “Oh a quiet book not going anywhere.” Little did I realize that it was a growing suspicion in my brain that was “where the book was going.” Here’s my spoiler alert- not about plot but about understanding the novel. Ishiguro structures it so nicely, with subtle ambiguity introduced in numerous place. Towards the end you start realizing: Wait, is Keiko’s mother Sachiko and not Etsuko? How do I know who is narrating the different parts? If indeed it is Sachiko who has moved to England (after America) and Keiko/Mariko who has committed suicide.. and maybe Etsuko was really the woman holding the child under the water in a sense? Time and identities are all mixed up. Anyway, that realization is brilliant.

Yay, my analysis is validated. here is a reader on goodreads: “Then, only ten pages from the end, the pronouns change. Where you expect ‘she’ there is ‘the child’ and where you expect ‘you’ there is ‘we’. And all of a sudden you’re unsure who is talking to whom, and when, and you start to realize that you have been taking what your narrator says at face value when perhaps you shouldn’t have.”

Random thought: Hills like white elephants kept coming to mind: elliptical dialogue.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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