I’ve been in a reading slump lately. I mean, I’ve been reading still, but it isn’t because I feel inspired to read, but because I set myself a goal of reading 75 books this year and, well, I am falling behind. But after reading Nocturnes, I feel reinvigorated. Nocturnes has reminded me why I love to read, why I love to discover and why I love to feel. Ishiguro writes with this incredible subtlety that is so rare in writers; the emotions that his characters and narrative elicit are so profound, yet I can’t even begin to find the words to describe those feelings. For that reason, my review of this book may be incoherent but I shall try my best.
Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro, as implied by the novel’s title, consists of five short stories that share a common theme: music. Each story enters a moment in a character’s life that probes introspection and challenges normative ideas we have about life, love and identity.
What really left me in awe with this book is how Ishiguro’s narrative is laced with the mundane and the ordinary, but it also touches on the fleeting emotions, thoughts and feelings that we experience but pay no heed to. Whilst reading this, I felt a rush of these feelings; ones that cannot be defined with a word and are difficult to explain, yet they felt extremely familiar to me.
These feelings feel complex and multifaceted – they are the byproduct of personal histories and the passage of time – but how Ishiguro articulates them with such few words or through a gradual and careful buildup is incredible to me. It is so subtle; it creeps up on you when you do not expect it. I believe Ishiguro says that these five stories are about nightfall, not only because the night is an important motif in the book, but because the very word seems to imply that there is something that is fading or changing with time. It is like you enter a room with an estranged friend you haven’t seen in ten years, and for the day you stay in that room with them; by the end of that day, perhaps you may feel possibility reignited, but as the day fades, it is extinguished by a truth or the past or lingering feelings. You leave that room like nothing has changed, but inside, you have. Minds change haphazardly and seemingly without sense; it’s asking the why and tapping into one’s innermost psyche that is interesting.
I felt like I have known these characters my whole life – but perhaps Nocturnes is, in a way, reflecting little pieces of who I am and my human experience. And it is these emotions, the ones that Ishiguro convey in his writing, is what, I think, makes us human — not simple, primary feelings that are fleeting, tools for ideological manipulation, or have no depth, but feelings that linger, are complex, and that we have no language for. These, I believe, are what I can safely call true, authentic feelings – ones that fall outside socio-cultural boundaries.
I really recommend Nocturnes. Noteworthy stories for me were Crooner, Cellists and Malvern Hills. It has the nuance and elegance of Never Let Me Go (for those who have read it) and it is lighter without losing any intricacies of what make the stories profound.
Book Name: Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Publisher: Faber and Faber