Just finished: Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled

I recently finished Kazuo Ishiguro‘s The Unconsoled and am terribly glad that I kept with it after the first half.

It is very difficult to read a novel in which you abhor the protagonist, which is how I felt about Ryder, the novel’s narrator. Here is a man who, throughout the novel, makes a lot of promises and accepts a lot of invitations but never keeps the ones which are important, wanders about as if in a dream and, at many times, acts like a complete and total asshole. At one point, Ryder goes to a screening of 2001 at a local movie theatre, incorrectly names the movie’s lead actors as Clint Eastwood and Yule Brenner, and then leaves in the middle without the woman he came with, quite likely his wife or mistress. In another scene, he leaves a boy, who might be his son, at a cafe for several hours as he allows himself to be led away by photographers and then by a local musician.

In addition to being very frustated with Ryder’s actions, I became very puzzled with The Unconsoled’s surreal setting, specifically the relative distances between locations in the village. In one chapter, Ryder is whisked away from the hotel where he is staying in the centre of the village and driven to what seems like a large house in the country for a formal gathering. When the gathering is over, Ryder is then led through a door which, quite miraculously, leads to his hotel. Later on in the book, Ryder drives to a gallery in the middle of the country, remembers that this is the same place where the gathering was located, and then finds his way back to the hotel through another door.

Because of my frustrations, I would have abandoned The Unconsoled altogether but did not as I wished to get to the bottom of Ryder’s behaviour and because of the tense build-up to the climax at the end of the novel. Having read this book, I look forward to reading Ishiguro’s other works, including The Remains Of The Day, for which he won the Booker Prize in 1989.

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