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Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall Hardcover – 7 May 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (7 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057124498X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571244980
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.1 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 399,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kazuo Ishiguro is the author of six novels, A Pale View of Hills (1982, Winifred Holtby Prize), An Artist of the Floating World (1986, Whitbread Book of the Year Award, Primio Scanno, shortlisted for the Booker Prize), The Remains of the Day (1989, winner of the Booker Prize), The Unconsoled (1995, winner of the Cheltenham Prize), When We Were Orphans (2000, shortlisted for the Booker Prize) and Never Let Me Go (2005, shortlisted for the MAN Booker Prize), and a book of stories, Nocturnes (2009). He received an OBE for Services to Literature in 1995, and the French decoration of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1998.

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Review

'A fine and moving collection of stories, displaying his unique combination of the sad, the stoic and the consoling. It's about failure, but it dignifies failure, and with it, the human condition.' --Margaret Drabble, Guardian Books of the Year

'These stories come up on you quietly, but then haunt you for days.' --David Sexton, Evening Standard

'A lovely, clever book about the passage of time and the soaring notes that makes its journey worthwhile.' --Independent on Sunday --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Nocturnes is a thought-provoking short story collection by Kazuo Ishiguro, the esteemed author of The Remains of the Day, which won the 1989 Booker Prize, Never Let Me Go, and The Buried Giant.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on 13 May 2009
Format: Hardcover
The five stories in this collection move rapidly. Unlike many short story collections where the reader feels like he can pick and choose stories in no particular order, the stories in Nocturnes feel like they should be read in quick succession in one go. Given their pacing, this seems like a manageable task over a long languorous weekend afternoon. They are written in an easy style and it's rewarding to notice that they contain characters which make multiple appearances.

There are several recurring themes throughout these stories. There are long term relationships that have been strained to breaking point like a tourist couple in the story "Malvern Hills"; people uneasy with fame and success like a man who undergoes plastic surgery in "Nocturn"; and an anxiety about fulfilling one's potential like a houseguest with severely judgmental friends in "Come Rain or Come Shine". The niggling details of life are shown to continuously squander the beauty which music offers. Careers get in the way of musicians trying to realize their artistic vision. Music brings individuals together, but the promises it makes can never be realized because of the circumstances those people find themselves in.

There are moments when these stories tread the line between realism and a hallucinatory dream-like narrative resonant of Ishiguro's masterful experimental novel The Unconsoled (whose protagonist is also a musician). Perhaps this is what Ishiguro is seeking to do: create the kind of inarticulate sensations which music invokes by using a carefully-modulated form of prose. He most definitely succeeds at demonstrating great skill in creating stories which are touchingly beautiful like the opening story "Crooner" and ones which are utterly hilarious and disturbing like "Nocturn". While perhaps not reaching the depth of his more meditative novels due to their intentionally clipped lengths, these stories are nevertheless highly accomplished and very enjoyable.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Birch VINE VOICE on 22 May 2009
Format: Hardcover
Kazuo Ishiguro is a proper writer: a book every four or five years, and, when they come along, they matter. His seven books, spanning thirty years, are the milestones of a lifelong meditation on longing, nostalgia, regret, and how on earth to cope with it all.

Reading Nocturnes, described on the jacket as a short-story "cycle", is like reading five Ishiguro novels in miniature. He's still the quintessence of himself, but here that essence is condensed and compressed into small, 30-page doses.

Like the nocturnes of Chopin, Fauré et al. from which the title derives, these are mood pieces, Romantic and pensive, evoking thoughts of finality and transience, of the passing of the day. Troubled relationships, usually marriages, lie in the background throughout.

The "nocturnes" are surprisingly uneventful, with a tendency to end on quiet, anticlimactic notes. In all five pieces, the characters come first. Fiction is all too often about authors moving their characters around like chess pieces; but Ishiguro's world is populated by free agents who flitter briefly across the page, fail to behave in a particularly novelistic way, then disappear back into the gloom of their real, monotonous lives. This wonderful, non-chessy writing is the secret to Ishiguro's success, and it's much in evidence here.

But there's a niggling feeling that Ishiguro is capable of more than this. There's enough overlap between the stories to make me wonder why he didn't stitch them together. I don't know whether to be impressed that Ishiguro didn't feel the need to merge the stories into a novel, or disappointed that he didn't bother.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ruth O'D on 15 April 2010
Format: Hardcover
3 stars is perhaps a little harsh for what is an interesting and enjoyable book, in which Ishiguro displays his usual talent for drawing the reader in to his characters' lives, and creating interesting scenarios. However I've given him 5 stars elsewhere for A Pale View of Hills so I think he'll understand.

I really liked the first two stories; 'Crooner' has poignant themes of aging and memory and harsh observations about the shallow world of fame and celebrity. 'Come Rain or Come Shine' was my favourite, it had me laughing out loud at some of its absurdities, but it ended much too abruptly. 'Nocturnes' was in a similar style, with a likeable, rather hapless, protagonist.

The narrator of 'Malvern Hills', on the other hand, didn't evoke any sympathy in me; he was selfish in a whiny sort of way, and the fact that he was supposed to have musical talent only made him all the more annoying. I wasn't sure how ironic the portrayal was; whether or not the author expected us to like him. 'Cellists', which also focused on musical talent and potential, was interesting rather than really engaging.

The five stories are rich in recurring themes and this is the kind of deep, intelligent book in which you discover more as you reread it, the perfect book to study in an English Literature class. However I have rather more simple tastes; I like good characters and good stories and don't really appreciate anything beyond that. If Mr Ishiguro had asked my opinion (unlikely, I admit!) I would have suggested expanding the first two short stories into novels, and leaving the rest.
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