Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ishiguro is the king of delusional narrators.

I inhaled this novel.

I liked it a lot, but to be honest, I'm not sure I liked it as much as Remains of the Day, strangely enough. Well, no, I liked the plot better, but I actually felt that Remains of the Day was a better executed book.

Here are some thoughts of mine.

1. Journaling gimmick this time around didn't work as well. The journaling setup of this book seemed more contrived to me than it did in Remains of the Day, only because in that, he was chronicling his everyday journey, and it was clear that he was doing this, whereas this, spread through years, didn't seem as convincing why it was done in this format.

2. Banks was so incredibly stupid. There were many times where I just wanted to smack the guy, he was so incredibly dumb. How he constantly lost his temper at people, said things to them insulting them, and then later felt sorry about it. How he insisted on going to find that house even though there was a WAR going on about him. How he left Sarah without a word to do this. Um, and after decades, did he really think his parents would still be held captive in that house? Really? I mean, I don't understand the basic logic behind his thinking. He's delusional. I love though, how he yells at his kid driver, telling him:
"Look here, you're a fool, you know that? A fool!... You're what I call a proper fool. Do you know why? I'll tell you. You pretend to know far more than you do. You're too proud to admit to your shortcomings. That's my definition of a fool exactly. A right fool! Do you hear me? A right and proper fool!"
--[pg. 242, When We Were Orphans]

I think that's hilarious, because I mean, who the hell is the fool? Ah Ishiguro, yes, you are smart. You get your characters to be so blind to their own shortcomings, so self-centered and delusional.

3. Ishiguro is good at heartbreaking endings. Someone said this to me once, and this is very true. While, I must say that the Butler in Remains of the Day finally confessing one little line of feeling was incredibly effective, the ending in this is quite heartbreaking too. Uncle Philip, the revelation, the deaths and/or loss of almost everyone he loves. The fact that everything he has built in his life becomes unraveled at the seams. Crazy and amazing.

4. It's always strange to read about China and the Opium Wars from this perspective. No matter what, it's so strange to me to read these things, and read about the Chinese being depicted as these heaps of beggars, diseased, sickly, needing to be saved. Foreign. Especially reading about it, knowing that this is taking place in China. It drives the point home to me, at least, that the Chinese were foreigners in their own land, especially in a place like Shanghai. I think about how Chinese are percieved and portrayed in this book and I contrast this with the Chinese movies I've seen the humanize the plight, and remember how incredibly advanced of a civilization China once was, and it is so bizzare to me. But it fits in with the thoughts of the time. It drives home to me also the awfulness of the Opium Wars, but also just how incredibly sad that point in history was for China.

Obviously there's a lot more to talk about in regards to this book, but these are my biggest impressions for now I guess. I really do love Ishiguro even though his style is so distinctly different than most of the things I like to read. But I think his books are so intelligently realized, so psychologically rich, and so multi-layered.

Really good.

3 drops:

moonrat said...

I thought this is wonderful. I thought Ishiguro was SO successful at surprising you with the complete delusional narrator. I loved, loved, loved this book.

angelle said...

Really? I kinda figured out he was delusional pretty early on. There were a lot of hints of it. But maybe it was because after reading Remains of the Day, I started out instinctively distrustful of the narrator.

moonrat said...

my problem--i NEVER catch on. i'm always completely caught off guard. i'm a wonderfully gullible reader and the kind of fan most writers dream of and most college professors cringe at. sigh.

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