Friday, June 4, 2021

Kazuo Ishiguro - Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.
Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: What does it mean to love?

Comment: In the beginning of the year, I had agreed with a friend we would read this book together, since the blurb seemed intriguing enough and we had both read other books by the author, knowing there is always something in them to inspire a discussion. We agreed on June to read it and I already finished but I must say I wasn't as impressed as I wished.

In this new book by the Nobel Prize winner, we follow the POV of Klara, an Artificial Friend, meaning a robot, which is made to be a companion to children, apparently.The time in which this novel happens is never directly mentioned but from little references it is set in the future, in a sort of dystopia reality. Klara is a robot and she likes to watch people from the window store where she is placed until the day she is purchased by Josie and her mother and a new existence starts for her. However, by moving in to their house and watching the dynamics, Klara realizes there's more going on than just Josie being sometimes ill. But Klara is a friend and she takes her role seriously, so she will try to find a way to help or cure Josie and she knows one way but will it work?

Thinking on the previous novels by the author I read, I'd say this one has a similar vibe to Never Let Me Go, in the sense the action takes place in a dystopian society but where we recognize most of the "rules". The story is told from the POV of one character and the kind of situations described all feel rather simple and relatable, except the few obvious signs something is different or the little clues which tell us something is weird. That is why I thought there would be a specific twist or secret being held and that would become quite a reveal later on.

Sadly for me, this didn't happen. I think the story build up expectations by how little the clues were on what could possible be wrong and while reading, even distracted by the more insistent scenes with the main characters, there was always this doubt: are the clues part of the twist or are they leading to something we cannot even think of? I really imagined the author had devised another amazing tale in this one, especially after the human characters start asking Klara to do certain things. In the end, however, I got the feeling nothing really happened which one could say mattered to the understanding of the plot.

Klara is the main character and being a robot, one could expect her descriptions and behavior being formal or within a limit. But she has the power of observation and initiative, she isn't only a follower of rules/orders. I thought the goal would be to put her in a situation where she had to care/like/love someone? Meaning, helping Josie because they were friends and how would that affect her behavior. In a way, this did, indeed, happen, and Klara tries to do something, from her own initiative, to help Josie become better but the end game was definitely not satisfying. I think the opportunity to use Klara as the symbol for something extra was lost.

Portuguese cover

It feels like the story seemed to give the idea of promising something, the tone and certain scenes were mysterious on purpose, the plot was extremely vague on the whole set up and why human people behaved the way they did and when the story ended, why there was need for artificial friends like Klara or why did groups of children interact like they do, all this and other details made the plot intriguing. Nevertheless, it was as unclear what the goal and reasons were for everything and when I begun reading, it seemed things would follow a certain path and then...they didn't. I was disappointed with the end, it was a little too vague for the amount of build up and it felt as if none of the past events mattered after all.

Everything considered, this wasn't a story I'll remember that much but I did leave with the impression it could have been much better, both if it had gone into the study of human nature or into more sci fi scenarios. In the end, what a pity in my opinion.
Grade: 6/10

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