A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro (1982) 183 p.


Ishiguro’s debut novel, and not a bad one at all. It’s a frame story, with a middle-aged Japanese woman named Etsuko living in England, who recently lost a daughter to suicide, telling her other daughter about the days when she still lived in Nagasaki after World War II. In that time she struck up a friendship with another young woman named Sachiko, proud and wilful, who breaks many of the norms of Japanese society and has a strange, troubled daughter.

It’s fairly compelling from the get go, especially with the creepy vibe coming from Sachiko’s daughter’s insistence that she keeps seeing a mysterious woman across the river, beckoning children into the forest. This being an Ishiguro novel, not everything is quite what it seems. Most people will probably guess the “twist” before the ending – I put it in quotes because it’s clear, from a single line towards the end, that there may be multiple levels of deception going on. Most authors don’t have very good debut novels, but A Pale View of Hills is pretty decent – nothing amazing, but memorable and clever.