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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Review: A Pale View of Hills

A Pale View of Hills - Kazuo Ishiguro

I've read two Ishiguro novels before, so I sort of knew what to expect. Though the subjects at the heart of his novel can be night and day, there seems to be a similarity in tone and in narrative voice. Expecting that, I went into A Pale View of Hills looking for the trap, hoping to spot in what ways the narrator was unreliable. And here's the problem: I spotted it in chapter 1. It seemed much too obvious. Or at least I thought I had spotted it. After finishing the novel, I was slightly confused on why some elements were included, so I looked them up. What I found were comments from people saying they didn't get it until the final moment, or on a second reading; there were theories that were so far left of what I thought had happened that I questioned if I wasn't a moron. Maybe I had been looking too hard for the solution and had misjudged. Perhaps my early theory tainted my reading and I missed obvious clues. I don't know. That's the problem with this book is that nothing is clear. I still don't know whether I'm an intuitive reader who picked up the clues in the very first chapter, or an idiot who still doesn't get it. (If you've read this novel and have a theory, I'd love to hear it.)


As far as the story, it was mostly what I expected. It certainly had that Ishiguro signature to it. That being said, this was a debut novel and I certainly felt it was a little weak. For starters, all the pieces don't quite come together (or my misinterpretation of events altered their ability to come together). Secondly, the dialogue is a great chore to slog through. Why is it so repetitive? Is this meant to be a literary device? Is it meant to evoke local dialect? For those who haven't read the novel, I'm not talking about the occasional repeated phrase—it happens on nearly every page. A character will say something three, four times, then repeat the same phrase three times ten pages later, then repeat it again twelve pages later, and on and on. Whatever its purpose, it is irritating and unfortunately that hinders my enjoyment of the story.


A Pale View of Hills has left me with many uncertainties. It's a decent novel, but where it is strongest is in its mysteries. Unfortunately, the mysteries may be too thick. Thirty-two years after its publication, it seems people are still arguing what really happened. I have my theory. I think I'm right. But knowing that I may never know for sure is really bothersome.