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3.6 out of 5 stars106
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 30 October 1998
Remember those Max Escher drawings of staircases that somehow turn back on themselves, buildings where everything looks fine, but somehow the planes are all wrong? The Unconsoled lures you into a similar world, where the natural order of relationships and places is somehow "disturbed". As you read, you find yourself remembering your own dreams of journeys that never finish and relationships that end up strangely out of synch with reality.
A compelling book, Kafkaesque (a compliment!), or perhaps with shades of Mervyn Peake. Must have.
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on 31 January 2002
Number 9...number 9...number 9...A surreal labyrinth of a novel, car journeys that take hours and then you return to where you began simply by walking through a door...strangers who you suddenly realise you have known for years...and no sleep, never the chance to sleep...This book will haunt your dreams and make you wander about with a vacant expression muttering under your breath and cause you distress and unease but if you're anything like me you won't be able to leave it alone and when you've finished you'll want to read it again. Like all of Ishiguro's work it contains incomparable insights into the complexities and sadness of human nature. The characters ramble on and on explaining in a pedantic way every fine detail of the subjects that prey on their minds day and night but it is endlessly fascinating and Ishiguro is such a kind writer, you feel nothing but tenderness towards this large cast of lonely and obsessed people.
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on 28 January 2011
To begin with I found this book extremely frustrating, I just wanted to shout at the central character, Ryder: why do you let people push you around like that? Why don't you complain when you are taken for a long drive to end up back where you started, or taken to a dinner party in your dressing gown? Why don't you speak up when people insult you as if you weren't there? Why don't you ask why?

As a reader, equally disconcerting was the protagonist's apparent psychic abilities: when the hotel porter falls silent in the lift, Ryder realises that it is because he is worrying about his daughter and grandson. How on earth does he know that? Did I miss a page?

But once I got used to the dream-logic of the book, and accepted it for what it is, I began to thoroughly enjoy it, and really care about the characters. As the book hurtled towards its conclusion, I was really hooked, desperate to know how it would all turn out. And although the ending didn't provide answers to all the questions raised by any means, it provided enough resolution for me to go away satisfied.
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on 6 April 2000
Read this book! The Unconsoled conjures up images which will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Ever woken from a dream with a vague uneasy sensation and not known why? Maybe this will remind you. Very unusual, and brilliantly crafted.
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on 21 May 2009
Having read 'Never Let Me Go' and then 'Remains of the Day', by now I can truly say I am a fan of Ishiguro's writing style. It manages to be both accessible, without patronising the audience. Yet, he still manages to explore some complex matters of the heart and life in general, capturing with such realism and empathy the voice of his protagonists. This is thus the saving grace of 'The Unconsoled'. World renowned pianist Ryder is due to give the performance of his life in an unnamed Central European city, but he can't seem to get a grip as his surroundings get more and more surreal. I was a little taken aback when I read some of the more venomous reviews of this novel. However having now finished the book I can see their point. It's not so much the ephemeral structure of the story that grates. Once you get used to it, it's not a problem. If anything it resembles any number of dreams you might have had. I think the problem is there are too many unnecessary detours and longwinded, futile monologues that it feels like Ishiguro tries our patience making the book as long as he did. He would have got away with it a lot more if it was a couple of hundred pages shorter. By now I am used to Ishiguro's trademark ambiguous endings. Things tend to taper off without much in the way of a major resolution. I normally find this strangely satisfying, if not a bit sad. At the end of the day it's realistic, life goes on. However after being lead on a merry dance through so much of 'The Unconsoled' you feel like you should have been rewarded with a more concrete ending. Some of the characters undergo evolution I suppose but most of it does seem rather pointless. Again the aimlessness of the book only really started to get to me when I was about two thirds of the way through. Much like 'Remains of the Day' the central character of The Unconsoled, Mr Ryder, wasn't an appealing one to me. He's rather self-involved and his pomposity as subtle as it is reveals itself a lot more towards the end of the book. Too often he's quiet when he should speak up and when he does his annoyance is expressed too late or misguided.

I'll still give this 3 stars because Ishiguro is a master story teller and his ability to draw you back in even when you lose faith in the book is quite special. His narrative has such a deceptive ease about it. I'm still yet to read anything of his that is as good as 'Never Let Me Go' but I'm not deterred. I'm looking forward to getting stuck into his latest 'Nocturnes'.
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on 14 January 2002
This brilliant masterpiece is an utterly unique novel - unlike anything I have read among books written in the past fifty years. The story - of a concert pianist arriving in Central Europe only to find himself constantly walking into various unresolved emotional aspects of his life - brings us into contact with great seriousness and sadness, wonderful farce and is unremittingly strange and bizarre. Ishiguro writes brilliantly, and conveys the alienation and dissociation from the world brilliantly in his prose and his unique dialogue.
Oh, and the scene with the broom cupboard is one of the funnisest things I've read in years.
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on 15 August 2000
An epic, stumbling, vague, directionless ramble of an novel which illustrates better than ever Ishiguro's mastery of the frailty of human character. Confusing and disturbing it undeniably is; but ultimately it is very, very rewarding. Genius.
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on 22 March 2006
This is a profoundly rewarding and moving book about the unreliability of memory, the circular nature of time, the fundamental lack of any certainty in any given existence. It also deals of course, with loss, perhaps Ishiguro's central thematic concern. An incredibly detailed realisation of one man's inner world, it is a riveting, bewildering, amusing and heartbreaking read. Yes, it is long. But never boring. Maybe you should be familiar with the author's preceding efforts before tackling this. But when you do tackle it, it's a bit like Seinfeld in the sense that all you do is walk around for years afterwards, greeting innumerable situations with the words: "It's just like the Unconsoled!"
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on 27 February 2015
The first time I read this book, what stood out for me was the physical and mental effect it had on me. My heart rate went up and I became increasingly anxious with each page turned. And I could not stop turning those pages. Ultimately I recognised all the elements of a troubling dream, though not a nightmare, which the writer was managing to invoke in me - whilst I was wide awake and which I was unable to control. Many other reviewers have outlined what takes place in the novel, so I will not repeat that myself, but suffice to say, what makes this book different from any other I have read, is that strange effect it had on me. I re-read The Unconsoled several years later to see if I could deal with it any better: I could not and yet again I marvelled at what I believed to be a remarkable achievement by Kazuo Ishiguro.

I was therefore horribly disappointed to hear what KI had to say about the work during a recent interview with Mark Lawson (available on BBC Iplayer till about 22nd March 2015). It doesn't get a mention till quite near the end of the programme at which point all KI has to say about it is that it's a comedy. His reluctance to give the book any more weight than that was quite a shock. I recommend the interview to anyone interested in this author because it does give great insight into what makes him tick.
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on 27 July 2001
A strange, infuriating and unique book. I might read it again when I've calmed down. As the main character is side-tracked from his purpose by layer upon layer of distraction I found that I became more and more tense and irritable. Even thinking about it as I write this review is making my chest tighten. My first attempt at this fat novel failed, not because I didn't like the writing, but because I couldn't take the situation of the main character. It has the atmosphere of a convoluted and frustrating dream - vivid and difficult to pin down. It's not a restful read.
Ishiguro has written a novel that provoked a physical reaction in me. This alone is enough to mark this as a special book for me and one that I will never forget.
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