I started reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills when I was taking a much needed break from the usual routine by spending the weekend at Avani Sepang Goldcoast Resort. This was our second time there, and my first time not spending the night at home since I checked out of the maternity ward after I delivered my second child.
That Saturday morning, I woke up early despite not sleeping well during the night due to the strange bed. The rest of the family was still in bed, so I picked up the book which I brought along for this so-called retreat and started reading it. I was immediately transported to an English countryside, and later on, a post-World War 2 Japan. Somehow from the very beginning the book had a haunting mood to it, although it wasn’t a horror story (for a while I thought that it was).
The story was told in first person and the narrator was a middle-aged Japanese woman Etsuko who is now residing in the English countryside. Her daughter from her second marriage to an Englishman was visiting her after the death of her eldest daughter from her first marriage committed suicide. There was a strain in their relationship, but exactly how did it happen was never explained. Similarly, what caused Etsuko’s first marriage to fall apart, why she left Japan and how did her second marriage go were not mentioned in the story too, although there were hints here and there which the reader could pick up and make his/her own conclusions. In a way, I was disappointed that there was not a definite explanation to all these, but at the same time, this is just how life is. We only get to see fragments of another person’s story, what the person allows us to know, and we never know the full picture. More often than not we make our own assumptions or maybe even presumptions and the rest of our interpretation becomes coloured by these ideas which we already made up in our mind.
All in all, I enjoyed reading A Pale View of Hills and Kazuo Ishiguro’s style of writing managed to captivate my attention although the storyline wasn’t anything exciting. After reading it, I thought about mother-daughter relationships, role of women in a marriage and family, and I reviewed my own perception on Japan after World War 2.