Tuesday, May 5, 2009

BOOK: Nocturnes by Kazou Ishiguro

Nocturnes by Kazou Ishiguro, 220 pages

Published in '09, released May 5, 2009

Five stories of Music and Nightfall

The subtitle was my first clue that nocturne might have more than one meaning. I knew it meant 'night', but it also means 'a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night.' Thanks wikipedia. The five stories are all of a similar theme, and round back on themselves with characters or settings, all connected to music.

Ishiguro wrote these five short stories as a set, meant to go together but not one complete novel. (I learned from this Guardian article) They are all different, told from a first person narrator, but there are some similarities. Most have musicians that have not achieved success, yet. (and it's never their fault)

I liked the stories set in Venice, because they reminded me of my visit there and was easily transported to San Marco square. "Crooner" and "Cellists" show musicians at the beginning of their careers meeting seasoned performers who aren't exactly what they seem."Malvern Hills" has an out of work musician taking refuge in the hills with his sister who expects him to work for his room and board, and who defines the concept of an idealized musician who won't sacrifice his musical integrity for anything.

I don't think summarizing the stories helps much in a short story review. Overall, the stories were readable and the more I think about them, the more connections I can make between the plots and characters. Is it a coincidence that a sonata is divided into five sections - introduction, exposition, development, recapitulation, coda? With well defined rules of repetition and spiraling of themes? I don't think so, Ishiguro is too good for that to be a coincidence. And that's where it ends, because I like his writing, he takes me right into the tale, with his unreliable narrators that make you look at what they say with a jaundiced eye, so that as the reader, I am sceptical of the characters and their tales of woe. I like reading his stories because they make me think.


  1. I love Ishiguro! I'll have to get my hands on this one.

  2. I'm sad that I'm American - this book got released in England just in time for my birthday, but not until September here. But it's exciting that he's got a new book out! I can't wait to read it.

  3. I contemplated this book, but I am not sure if it is for me. Even the best authors can't interest me in short stories at the best of times!

  4. I love Ishiguro too. I enjoyed reading "When We Were Orphans." I really enjoyed your review about "Nocturnes." I've never heard of this title. I like short stories and music. I bet I would like this book. Great review.

  5. This was a lovely written review. This looks like an interesting read. I need to add it to Mt. TBR. :-)

  6. I did not know Ishiguro wrote short stories. Thanks for bringing this to my attention! I loved Never Let Me Go.

  7. Wait...a story set in Venice? Now I really can't wait until my edition arrives! Japanese author and Italian city together, what an idea...I can't wait to learn more! Thanks for pointing out this link and expanding my desire to read Nocturnes.


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