Kazuo Ishiguro

A Pale View of Hills

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A Pale View of Hills Summary

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A Pale View of Hills by Nobel-winning author, Kazuo Ishiguro, was first published in 1982. This debut novel begins with the suicide of a woman named Keiko. This act brings Niki, the protagonist, home to look after her mother, Etsuko. Keiko was Etsuko’s first daughter. Etsuko’s home now seems too large and empty, and after Niki returns, the book delves into the past. Etsuko’s relationship with her first husband, Jiro, was not a happy one, but neither was it horrible. Jiro didn’t devote much attention to Etsuko, showing that he didn’t really care for her. However, the birth of their child gave Etsuko happiness, as did the peace that followed the terrors of World War II. This baby is Niki’s older half-sister, Keiko. Years after marrying Jiro, Etsuko falls in love with a British man. This is Niki’s father. Etsuko, who gave up her home and her culture to pursue this new, more loving, relationship, didn’t want her second daughter to have a Japanese name. Etsuko and her daughters move to England.

Keiko grows up unhappy. She’s a recluse and can’t connect with those around her. Part of this problem stems from an inability to communicate with her stepfather and Niki, who both speak fluent English. As an adult, she rents a flat in Manchester, England, and lives there until her death by suicide. She’s found hanging from the ceiling by her landlady. Imagining Keiko’s last moments plagues Etsuko. Etsuko reflects on a friend of hers, Sachiko, who fell in love with a man named Frank. Frank was an American, and Sachiko wanted to move her daughter, Mariko, to the United States to be with him. Etsuko thought it cruel back then to uproot Mariko and expect her to live in a culture so different from her own, but she realizes that she did the same to Keiko. At the end of A Pale View of Hills, Niki leaves Etsuko to return to London.

Loss is a major theme in this book. Despite Keiko’s retreat from others in her life, everyone is touched in some way by her loss. For example, Keiko’s death plunges Etsuko into a period of reflection, during which she determines that her decisions didn’t bring Keiko happiness, but often brought her unhappiness instead. Another important theme is freedom of choice. One of the conflicts between Etsuko and Jiro involve politics. This is highlighted by what he learns of Hanada, his colleague. Hanada and his wife disagree on who to vote for, so Hanada threatens to beat his wife if she doesn’t kowtow to his wishes. Many characters in A Pale View of Hills believe that women shouldn’t have their own ideas and blame Americans for instilling that desire in them. Freedom of choice therefore goes hand-in-hand with the perceived and real influences of cultural exchange.

Kazuo Ishiguro is a British author with Japanese family history. Ishiguro himself was born in Nagasaki, Japan. When he was a child, his family moved to England so that his father could work for the National Institute of Oceanography. As a young adult, Ishiguro attended the University of Kent, where he earned his B.A. in English and Philosophy. Then, he went on to study at the University of East Anglia, earning his master’s degree in creative writing. He was mentored by author Angela Carter, known for her work as a novelist, poet, dramatist, editor, and translator. A Pale View of Hills presents both the Japanese and British viewpoints with equal attention. In 1982, A Pale View of Hills won the Winifred Hiltby Memorial Prize.