#6 Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

This is the very first book of Kazuo Ishiguro I read and it was most definitely one of the most intriguing books I’ve ever read.  Some books are plain simple and lay everything down for you and all you have to do is, well, read.  But Ishiguro’s book makes you do more than that.  This book definitely made me think and ponder and though the book itself is comprised of five short stories of individuals that I could read at one seating, I didn’t do that.  I felt as if I should give each story some time to sink in me and really digest until I got something out of it.

I love a nocturne (a musical composition that is inspired by the night) for its tranquility but I wonder if its “being gloomy” inspired the author to title this book Nocturnes, relating to the heartbreak in each story.  But rather than being depressed by them, I found the most unusual side of comedy appears here and there, which made me unsure of whether or not to laugh or cry but it certainly made me chuckle hard.

This suite of five stories hits all of Ishiguro’s signature notes, but the shorter form mutes their impact. In Crooner, Tony Gardner, a washed-up American singer, goes sloshing through the canals of Venice to serenade his trophy wife, Lindy. The narrator, Jan, is a hired guitar player whose mother was a huge fan of Tony, but Jan’s experience playing for Tony fractures his romantic ideals. Lindy returns in the title story, which finds her in a luxury hotel reserved for celebrity patients recovering from cosmetic surgery. The narrator this time is Steve, a saxophonist who could never get a break because of his loser ugly looks. Lindy idly strikes up a friendship with Steve as they wait for their bandages to come off and their new lives to begin. In the final story, Cellists, an unnamed saxophonist narrator who, like Jan, plays in Venice’s San Marco square, observes the evolving relationship of a Hungarian cello prodigy after he meets an American woman. The stories are superbly crafted, though they lack the gravity of Ishiguro’s longer works (Never Let Me Go; Remains of the Day), which may leave readers anticipating a crescendo that never hits. (Sept.)
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