About the Book
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?
304 pages (Hardcover)
Published on March 2, 2021
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Kazuo Ishiguro is an author who basically slayed me a few years ago. You see, I randomly downloaded the audiobook for Never Let Me Go and then went off to work the day job and listened to it. I had no idea what I was getting into. So I go to work, and I listen to that book and then I get to the end where you finally figure out what’s going on and holy mother of god, I have never in my life had a book undo me as much as that one did. I mean, I was bawling so hard my coworkers asked me if someone died. I laugh about it now, but the truth is, an author who writes books that can make a reader feel that profoundly is an author to notice.
Ishiguro has won the Nobel Prize for literature, so that really says enough right there, doesn’t it? However, Klara and the Sun is his first book released since he won said prize, and because I love it when authors make me feel, I knew I had to read this one.
First off, I listened to the audiobook of this, and I really enjoyed the narrator. She was easy to understand, and had a good flow and voice for Klara herself. She made it quite easy to sink into the book. So, if you’re an audiobook fan, give this one a listen. It’s well done, and you’ll likely enjoy it as much as I did.
Klara and the Sun is an interesting book. Told from the perspective of Klara, an AF (Artificial Friend). While this book is about friendship, and love, and various other deep themes of that nature, the story itself is told with the voice of a robot. Therefore, the book doesn’t quite shine on a sentence level the way some of his other books do. Klara has a bit of a, dare I say, robotic voice. It does loosen up as time goes by, but she never quite slips out of being what she is.
That being said, I didn’t have a problem with that at all. In fact, while the prose did feel utilitarian, it was welded like a hammer, making a large impact with few words. Her voice was unique and it really helped hammer her own evolution and experiences home.
In this near future world, the evolution of society is seen mostly in genetics, and the social stratification that results from genetic tinkering. This is one of those nebulous things, where you see hints of the world, the shape of these issues that are at the core of this book. In fact, this ability for Ishiguro to reveal in fits and starts, holding the big picture back until it will have the largest impact on the reader is one of my favorite things about this author. In so many ways, this world is so similar to our own, but when you do start seeing these differences, they are both subtle and monumental at the same time. And then, that last gasp when you finally understand everything you’ve been reading about is nothing short of amazing.
Josie quickly enters Klara’s life, and becomes the core of it, and Klara is hired to be her friend, and also take care of her. In a lot of ways, Klara’s relationship with Josie is a lot about care, both physically and emotionally, and the friendship that evolves from that kind of selfless love. Josie, being a teenager, spends a lot of the book trying to figure out who she is. Her illness is hinted at, and like so much else in the book, slowly revealed to the reader. Through Josie, readers get a view of how school and socialization works in this new future. You get a sense of her yearning to belong, and how hard she fights against basically her own fate. You feel, deeply, how she is both a part of, yet apart from at the same time.
Klara is an interesting voice to throw into this changing and evolving stew. Klara, being what she is, is unchanging, and in many ways the love and kindness she bestows upon those around her are far more pure than anything a human could muster, and due to that, the moments of realization feel that much more emotionally impactful because such pure selflessness is at the heart of every part of this story. While the world changes around her, Klara remains the same and it feels like there is a message in that, and also a certain marriage of hope and sorrow that went right through me. Perhaps it says something that the person in the novel who impacted me the most was the one who was not, in fact, human.
Klara and the Sun has a huge emotional impact, as all of this author’s books do. However, instead of breaking me down into buckets of tears, like Never Let Me Go, the emotional impact of this one was just as profound, if not quite as obviously so. The well this draws from is deep, but different, a kind of simmering below the surface rather than an outpouring. This book made me think, and haunted me long after I finished it.
Klara and the Sun was a delight I lost myself to, and just like Ishiguro’s other work, it’s one that has me looking at love, and kindness, and what it means to be human in a completely new light.