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on 2 May 2017
I love Kazoo Ishiguro's writing, but after reading the Buried Giant I don't think anything will quite match how much I liked it. Ishiguro seems to write in a same way in each of his books in a reminiscent way. What he really masters is his way of making the reader feel the atmosphere of the time, the place and the main character.

This was an interesting book about a time before Japanese militarism and after the second world war. It was a small book that could be read really quickly! Thought provoking!
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on 5 March 2017
A bit late to the party with this given it's the 30th anniversary but this was a beautiful work of literature capturing a difficult time for Japan. It deals with family matters, grief and guilt in a remarkable way.
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on 27 April 2017
Well written and evocative of Japanese life and culture. It seems without event and is slow moving and I found some of the characters unmemorable but it would probably take a second reading
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on 22 November 2016
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on 27 April 2017
Really enjoy his use of English and his subtle characterisations
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on 24 December 2012
While being a very pleasant read I wasn't enthralled. It's had great reviews so I suspect the problem is me - I don't know enough about Japanese history (and maybe also culture) to adequtely contextualise the story. I am reading another Japanese book at the moment and it shares some similarity of style which is also feeling somewhat unfamiliar to me. Possibly with continued effort with this genre will appeal more. It feels a bit like the first time I read Trollope's Barsetshire series; I first had to put effort into adapting myself to the style before I could lose myself in the stories (it was worth the effort). I think what these books share is a focus on very well observed and detailed nuances of people rather than pacy page turning "car chase" action/adventure. Sorry, this didn't end up as a review of the book so much as a review of my inexperience. (I do love Remains of the Day and Never let me Go films though ...!). If I persist with the genre I wonder if my star ratings will improve ? I hope so, this book makes me feel a bit, well, inadequate.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 June 2008
Written in Ishiguro's trademark style, this is an elegant, understated and subtle novel. Narrated in a somewhat rambling and not always reliable way by an elderly artist, this is the story of a society rebuilding itself after the horrors of war. The narrator, a former propagandist for Japan during World War II, must come to terms with his own sense of guilt and try to make sense of the sweeping changes brought in by a new generation.

Ishiguro captures the essence of Japan well, and does a good job of conveying the underlying values and social niceties of a society very different from the modern western one. The narrator is a well constructed character - realistic and far from perfect, and throughout the book the reader comes to sympathise with him to some degree. The other characters, particularly his disapproving daughters and lively grandson, are very believable and I enjoyed reading their interaction.

At times the meandering, rambling nature of the narration can get irritating, but apart from that this is a well constructed, fascinating novel.
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on 12 March 2017
Prompt and correct
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on 25 March 2017
When I was a child I remember my mum having a blue and white plate. It was in the style of Chinese willow pattern but made in Japan and depicted a kimono clad figure of indeterminate sex standing on an arched bridge over a softly flowing river, dwarfed by mountain ranges to the left and right.

If the Japanese plate was my mum’s pride and joy, my dad’s was an innovative device: a Casio calculator. We didn’t see it at the time but my parents’ preferences neatly symbolised how Japan had repositioned itself in the world, its metamorphosis from old-world imperial to new-world technological powerhouse.

An Artist in the Floating World, set in Japan between 1948 and 1950, captures the transition. Masuji Ono lives in a traditionally styled house, parts of which remain bomb damaged, whereas his married daughter loves her modern ‘Western design’ apartment; his grandson Ichiro prefers the Lone Ranger and Popeye the Sailorman to Lord Yoshitsune or the Ninja of the Wind; and across the little wooden bridge from his house the old “floating world” pleasure district is rapidly being replaced by modern office blocks.

On a national level, of course, the country is recovering from the Second World War and “the surrender”. And on a personal level, Masuji is recovering from devoting his talent and energy to the Imperial cause. How do you deal with the knowledge that, with all good intentions, the mast you nailed your colours to was shameful?

The story is told in the first person by Masuji, a famous artist, now retired “because Japan lost the war”, his paintings “tidied away for the moment.” Gradually we come to understand that he’d turned his back on painting “pleasure district women” in favour of pictures pushing the sentiment that Japan should “forge an empire...use our strength to expand abroad.”

Which brings us to another question: what is the role of art, or the artist, society? Masuji is that most wonderful of things, an unreliable narrator. He presents himself as “a man of some influence, who used that influence towards a disastrous end” whereas in his elder daughter’s eyes his work “had hardly to do with these larger matters...Father was simply a painter.”

The Artist is set in Japan with wholly Japanese characters and although written in English feels as if it could have been translated from Japanese. In the introduction to my paperback copy Ishiguro talks of “finding an elegant yet slightly stilted register that would suggest the rhythms and stylised formality of the Japanese language running all the time behind the English.” He pulls it off perfectly. No surprise, then, that The Artist won the Whitbread Book of the Year in 1986.

It makes we want to see Japan, the old “floating world” Japan (though I accept it has probably gone apart from bits recreated for tourists). And I wish I’d kept that willow patterned plate.

For more reviews visit whatcathyread.com
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on 16 March 2017
A beautiful book. A lot like ‘Remains of the Day’, but a beautiful story nonetheless.

In this story Ono, a retired artist looks back on his career and life. In a meandering (typical Ishiguro) narrative, he re-examines the patriotic and propagandist values he has endorsed. And we see how Ono is held by his family and in the wider society for this.

Through his memories, we experience a little of Japanese militarism, the Second World War, and see the rebuilding and reforming of Japan afterwards.

In amidst all the uncertainties, there is a particularly beautiful scene where Ono sits with his teacher. The teacher is reminiscing about what his and his friend’s beliefs and values in life have been:

“The best things, he used to say, are put together of a night and vanish with the morning. What people call the floating world, Ono, was a world that Gisaburo knew how to value.”

He goes on to say: “It’s hard to appreciate the beauty of a world when one doubts its very validity.”

I’ve heard Ishiguro described as preachy and moralistic lately, but who can dislike this kind of reflection when it’s so beautiful?
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