I recently completed the book The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. The book was borrowed from the library, and was quite a serendipitous find — I had, in fact, wanted to borrow the book Never Let Me Go by the same author, but it was already on loan.
After reading the first ten pages, I knew this book was special because, honestly, I disliked what I’d read thus far. To ascertain if this was due to “reader issues” or if it was down to just being a bad book, I looked to Google and Amazon.com, where I found that I wasn’t alone. Many reviews for the book were downright negative, and comments along the lines of “wasted time”, “unreadable”, and “rubbish” were not uncommon.
What was more worrying, however, was that though there were plenty of positive comments as well, they seemed to be written by readers of the book suffering from cognitive dissonance, people far more interested in opposing the naysayers than reviewing the book critically because, I suppose, after going through 500 pages of literary purgatory, you really don’t want to believe that you’d put yourself through all that for naught. (You’d feel better about yourself if it was, after all, a good book.)
But every time I thought about putting the book down, I’d think about my great enjoyment of The Remains of the Day (a splendid book by the author I had read earlier), and the fact that on the cover of this book was a blurb proclaiming this book a prize-winner (ah, marketing). So what’d happen is that I’d give the book the benefit of a few more pages, by which time there’d be a story arc or two that made me go, “I wonder what happens next,” and I’d tell myself, “after this I’ll stop.”
But I never did stop.
After about a hundred pages on, I knew I was hooked. The style of writing, though unsettling at first, slowly caught on. Especially amusing was the fact that the style of the story reminded of — and of all things — the game Monkey Island! The protagonists of each reminded of the other (full of dry humour, wry remarks, and very human flaws); and while just like how Monkey Island was filled with surrealism and fantasy, The Unconsoled was just that as well (just without the voodoo).
All in all, I have no idea whether or not to recommend the book, but all I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and my guess is that if you enjoyed Monkey Island, you’d enjoy this book as well.
Let me leave you with a video of some great Monkey Island scenes: