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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 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 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 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 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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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 31 March 2015
Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Unconsoled.
I found this very fluent account of the narrator’s struggle to become orientated in a nameless town in possibly Germany to be compulsive reading. It is partly about memory loss and it recalled to me Karinthy’s Metropole,where a professor of linguistics ends up in a bustling modern city in central Europe in which nobody speaks any of the languages he knows. In The Unconsoled Mr Ryder, Ishiguro’s narrator-hero, is met with extreme politeness by hotel staff, but frustratingly he fails to get exact clarification of his mission. He is scheduled to address an audience in a small town where Mr Brodsky, a reformed alcoholic pianist has returned to perform some classical studies. Everyone in the town knows of Mr Ryder’s reputation and initially at least he receives nothing but generous plaudits wherever he goes. The reader, however, begins to doubt his sanity, since he fails to arrive for vital consultations and is easily persuaded to take on tasks for others - such as hearing Stephan, his host’s son, practice. What is almost a sub-plot involves Ryder in trying to make sense of the broken relationship between Leo Brodsky and Miss Collins. Complications multiply when we learn that Ryder’s parents are arriving to hear their son’s performance - pianistic or simply as Brodsky’s front man. Ultimately there is some doubt as to whether the Ryders senior have arrived or indeed whether they even exist within the book’s time frame.

The Unconsoled is a challenging book that deliberately frustrates its reader’s expectations. Dozens of unanswered questions are raised, many remaining unsolved at the end. Readers who like a tight plot and a tidy conclusion are unlikely to finish the book. For those who stay with it the book has many treasures and a great deal of humour - seemingly not aroused in Ryder, who incidentally has not only no parents, no wife, no son, and no first name. In place of a wife and family he becomes attached like a father to Boris, a charmingly unco-operative boy and to Sophie, the boy’s mother, a caring but frustrated picker-up of pieces dropped by her two male dependants, Ryder and Boris.

At times the book has the feel of a Lewis Carrol wonderland. Conversations mainly narrated via Ryder lead to further hints of past events; the interior becomes exterior; the unlikely is accepted as fact - when Ryder meets his old car and goes back in time to childhood for example. Some readers insist that the novel is surreal and many sequences do indeed have the floating quality of dream. We feel, Ryder feels, that we’ve been here before and there are deja vues galore. Those who seek a tidy plot should be warned that in The Unconsoled there are time breaks and time bends in this gallimaufry plunge into consciousness.
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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 12 June 2011
Eagerly anticipated after the six year gap since his previous novel 'The Remains of the Day', Kazuo Ishiguro's 'The Unconsoled' was understandably met with a lukewarm and confused reaction by many of his fans, and previously supportive critics. There's no doubting that 'The Unconsoled' is a brave and original work, and that there is something genuinely haunting about the narrative's tossing and turning of its confused and troubled protagonist, Ryder, a pianist playing a concert in a struggling, unnamed central European city. The overarching feeling of dread and confusion which the book creates, whilst not particularly enjoyable for the reader, is the one aspect of the novel that hits the mark - this unsettling effect is successful, and hangs over the novel in a fashion which Camus or Kafka would not have sniffed at. The book as a whole though, is unsuccessful. The troubled Ryder is a one dimensional creation, and though a sense of disengagement with a text like this is the author's intention, it's hard to find any reason at all to care about Ryder, or about his overly-needy partner, and his affectionate but estranged son Boris. The plot of the novel, too, lurches from one crisis to another for Ryder, with no real authorial insight into his struggle, and it feels that there's no great social, political or personal truths to be garnered, unlike in the similarly troubling works of Pynchon or Kafka - but that the novel's style disguises a vacuous and disappointingly blank text. The novel's length is also unjustified, and its lack of any sort of coherent ending might fit with its place in the postmodern genre, but leaves the reader with very little to reflect upon in the novel. In truth, nothing of real note happens from start to finish, either in terms of action, or wider affirmations, and it seems that in trying to reflect the confusion of modern day existence, Ishiguro has given himself too little to work with, by banishing self-knowledge from his major characters, and any real changes or truly impressive social reflections from his novel.

'The Unconsoled', as an original attempt at literature, which it definitely is, is a novel to be respected for its attempt to create a visceral portrait of confusion and uncertainty in the individual and in the crumbling society he seems to enter. But by blurring the city Ryder visits, and by blurring Ryder's understanding of what he sees, Ishiguro thus blots out any real revelations or engagement which the reader can find with the novel. There's too little of anything concrete in 'The Unconsoled' to hold the interest for long, in a novel which drags on with increasing tedium, and though Ishiguro manages the sense of dread in the novel with an impressive firmness, it's not nearly enough to hold together a novel which is overlong, too wooly to grasp, and will strongly frustrate all but the most ardent of Ishiguro fans.
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on 20 April 2000
When I read the book in 1995 I just couldn't understand, why most major newspapers had given it bad reviews at first. For me it was the ultimate page-turner. I sunk into it just as much as I got into the plot of Kafka's "The Castle", a book it somehow reminded me off quite a lot. As other reviewers have commented before me, the book has a strong kafka-esque touch, and probably this makes it so disturbing for people who expect all lose ends to be tied together into a complete story. As in Kafka, the protagonist is left in his quest and the reader has to follow him. Not everything can be solved. Kafka has this parable of the ultimate quest in one of his novels, about the search that always continues, you come to one door, cannot pass because of a guardsman there, and even if you managed to pass, you'd come to the next one, with the next guard. This, for me, could be seen as a kind of a synopsis for Ishiguro here. "The Unconsoled" is, in my opinion, one of the best books I ever read, and if you look for something experimental that really involves you in the plot and takes you into a very surreal world - this is the book to go for. If you expect a rather more "Remains of the Day"-type novel, you might want to reconsider your choice.
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