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Nocturnes [Paperback]

Kazuo Ishiguro
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
RRP: 11.99
Price: 10.08 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Oct 2009
In a sublime story cycle, Kazuo Ishiguro explores ideas of love, music and the passing of time. From the piazzas of Italy to the Malvern Hills, a London flat to the 'hush-hush floor' of an exclusive Hollywood hotel, the characters we encounter range from young dreamers to cafe musicians to faded stars, all of them at some moment of reckoning. Gentle, intimate and witty, this quintet is marked by a haunting theme: the struggle to keep alive a sense of life's romance, even as one gets older, relationships flounder and youthful hopes recede.

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Nocturnes + The Unconsoled + A Pale View of Hills
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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (1 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571254934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571254934
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.4 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 622,069 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.

Product Description


'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 an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'It was our third time playing the Godfather theme since lunch...' --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's always difficult to review a Kazuo Ishiguro book. The naturalistic, fluid nature of his writing is very compelling and consistently worthy of at least four stars. The problem is with some of the characterisation in his novels and the desultory nature of his narratives. He's well known for the kind of stories that meander towards an anti-climax, the emphasis not so much on the destination as the journey. What do we learn about the characters from this snapshot of their life that has been revealed through the tale? Now this sort of passing-through approach should be ideal for the short story format, surely? Well yes and no. 'Nocturnes' has five stories for which the phrase 'hit-and-miss' is most apt. For every decent tale the next falls flat. The worst offenders in this collection are 'Come Rain or Come Shine' and the eponymous 'Nocturnes' for no other reason that they feel the most contrived and left me the most dissatisfied with their resolution. 'Cellists' comes a close third.

There is a running theme throughout the book of implacably shallow women who only value the men in their lives according to their social status and achievements. Another Ishiguro favourite is the docile male character who allows those around him to trampel his self-worth into the ground. These combined factors make for extremely irritating reading and reaches a nadir in doormat Ray and his supercilious, bullying friends Charlie and Emily in 'Come Rain...'-a story that actually starts off very promisingly.

'Nocturnes' is the tale of a talented but supposedly underachieving saxophonist, Steve, who is convinced by his callous ex-wife and opportunistic manager to have plastic surgery to improve his looks and -by their logic-his chances of success.
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Night-side Music 13 May 2009
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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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cultured, elegant and captivating 22 May 2009
By Jonathan Birch VINE VOICE
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.

Expect a work as distinctive and unforgettable as
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Review;
A smashing and atmospheric collection of tales, that invoke a tranquil internal warmth, touched with a bittersweet hollow feeling of the unknown aspects of life and strangers you... Read more
Published 3 months ago by kit hedley
4.0 out of 5 stars read for bookclub
I enjoyed the musical references and thought the scene with a chicken in lightened the stories which up until then had been quite unhappy stories. Read more
Published 3 months ago by laraandgirls
3.0 out of 5 stars Chatty collection
This collection of five stories was my introduction to this author, who is reputedly a long distance type, not a sprinter. These stories are middle-distance writings. Read more
Published 3 months ago by P. A. Doornbos
2.0 out of 5 stars One dimensional and lacking Ishiguro's usual subtlety
I found all but the final story of this collection, "Cellists", to be completely drab and uninspired. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ian Shine
4.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic, sentimental collection of short sories
The atmosphere is calm, a quiet stillness prevails on the surface, but it hides inner turmoils. Comic, hilarious moments mix up with sentimental and nostalgic ones. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Lavinia Pelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly entertaining stories
I absolutely loved these stories. Ishiguro is a natural storyteller and these are neatly plotted but there is much more to them than that. Read more
Published 12 months ago by GeordieReader
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable mood music
These stories are billed as being about music. Music is the vehicle. They are just as much about relationship breakdown, and about the way music is a way of reviving old bonds, or... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Emily - London
4.0 out of 5 stars Night music
Five beautiful short stories about music and love and the dying of the light. I read this book over several months, dipping in occasionally. Read more
Published on 27 Jun 2012 by Simon Bendle
4.0 out of 5 stars A quiet meditation on moments in life
A gentle set of five stories in which little happens but lives change, the lives of Ishiguro's characters intersect with those of others triggering series of reflections and... Read more
Published on 11 Jun 2012 by Jo Bennie
2.0 out of 5 stars Nocturnal Nightmares
I read "When We Were Orphans" by Kazuo Ishiguro recently and was underwhelmed, to say the least, as the author unleashed his neurotic narrator on the unsuspecting reader like a... Read more
Published on 23 May 2012 by John Fitzpatrick
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