A PALE VIEW OF HILLS
The present-day troubles and dark memories of Etsuko, a Nagasaki woman now living alone in England--in a strongly moody but ineffectually structured first novel. Etsuko is now alone, divorced; one daughter, Keiko, has committed suicide; the other, Niki, English-born, lives unmarried with a man in London. And these very un-Japanese social circumstances direct Etsuko's musings back to the time in Nagasaki, a year or so after the Bomb, when things started to unravel. Memories of her first husband, Jiro, who tended to sacrifice family values (respect for his aged father) for career advancement in the newly technologizing society. The even more disturbing, anarchic story of Etsuko's friend Sachiko--who accepted the lies and evasions of an American boyfriend, even though this led to the horrendous maltreatment of her little girl, Mariko. (Mariko, emotionally battered by neglect, wandered the canals at night, unmissed, a walking symbol of victimized Nagasaki.) Throughout the novel, there's a distant overtone of destruction hovering--pieces of lives that can never be rejoined. But Ishiguro, who writes in English, pulls things seriously out of kilter with her bad weighting of flashback/flashforward technique: the doses of memory are numbing, hard to swim free from when the book attempts to pitch ahead into the present. And the result is evocative but oppressively unfocused fiction.