Title: Klara and the Sun
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
From the back: ‘The Sun always has ways to reach us.’
From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.
The gist: Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is one of my all-time favourite books, and I was so excited to hear he was releasing a new science fiction book this year. In fact it’s one of the rare times I actually pre-ordered a book, it appearing in my kindle the day of release, only for me to save it until I felt that I could properly settle down to it and give it my full attention.
And so, when I was ready to savour the moment, I dove in.
And it’s a quietly uneasy, beautiful read, shot through with sun and shades of dark. It’s not a mind-blowing science fiction novel—those familiar with the genre won’t find anything new here. But what I find with the book, and what I found with Never Let Me Go, is that the reward does not come from the new ideas, but from the quiet delivery, the paned back tones, the detached observations. Sometimes, it comes from the feelings of inevitability and the sense of grappling with the future and what it holds. Sometimes it comes from the juxtaposition between acceptance of something, and whether that something feels justified or warranted. For me, Ishiguro is a master at creating this sensation, through his quiet explorations of identity and humanity.
Do not expect everything to be explained, the specifics largely remaining without detail—because sometimes it is not the detail that matters. It’s the feelings and the exploration and the growth regardless of the framework it’s in. But Klara’s sense of the sun is almost tangible—her faith in it, and the feel of it. Ishiguro writes in a way that allows the reader to explore the world created in their own way, freedom to fill in the gaps between the lines and to wonder what happened or happens.
The conclusions, if you draw any, are down to you.
Klara and the Sun is a beautiful book, with a softness that is at times both sad and satisfying.
Favourite line: I didn’t think that humans could choose loneliness.
Read if: You want a quietly uneasy book, softly exploring identity and humanity.
Read with: Your artificial assistant of choice, minding your p’s and q’s, remembering to say thanks when they tell you what the weather is like or set the alarm for your dinner.