Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: An unusual selection of quite similar stories, regarding unhappiness and the music of getting a bit more joy in our lives - or the joy of getting more musical.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0571244980

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A jobbing guitarist from an Eastern European country, playing in Venice, is given a most singular gig by an ageing, passing crooner. An old friend of a couple at loggerheads stays in their flat, but enters a nightmare world of comedy, doing greater and greater wrongs to cover his first transgression. A younger couple running a cafe employ a friend to help out, despite his wish to hide in the hills and compose new songs for his not-very illustrious career.

We are in the territory of short stories, and with these five it's the first time we see Kazuo Ishiguro here for a whole book. They're linked by music and musicians, but a lot else besides, from characters to moods. Before the end we will encounter returning characters, and we will see more than a few fractious partnerships - there is one in the first story for the musician to be thrust in between, and the fourth features an unusual gift from the narrator's ex's new man, which creates a circumstance for more unusual giving.

There are also similarities in approach. All titles in the book have a first person narrator, from a musician not quite at the heights of their career, never completely in a grounded, successful place. I shared my library copy, and they saw the variety and engaging ideas in these tales, but were frustrated by the lack of resolution. I however quite enjoyed the fact that, although the writing was never exactly brilliant, and nothing very memorable, the stories did successfully carry on beyond the final word.

There are quibbles of a similar kind to be had elsewhere. The first might annoy slightly as it drifts about, never quite pinning down who is the most important character; the second story has perhaps less to do with music. The third tale had characters that swung too far in my mind. The comedy used in the second and fourth tales might be to your taste, it might not - and it probably doesn't fit with one's idea of a nocturne.

On the whole there was a better book to be had here, but similarly a much worse one - I liked the way Ishiguro definitely did not try to create a story in the style of the music, or define the sounds the people were making beyond a few gestures. But I do have to ask quite why similar tales, of people in like circumstances etc, made up a book such as this. It might have reached four stars on a more generous day, but for now I think this is a middling opus.

Buy Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro at Amazon.com.

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