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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Nocturnes

by
Kazuo Ishiguro


[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]


general information | review and reception notes | links | about the author

To purchase Nocturnes



Title: Nocturnes
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre: Fiction
Written: 2009
Length: 221 pages
Availability: Nocturnes - US
Nocturnes - UK
Nocturnes - Canada
Bei Anbruch der Nacht - Deutschland
  • Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

Don't have a copy


Chances that we will review it:

More likely to get to some of his earlier work first

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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 16/5/2009 Jonathan Coe
The Guardian . 16/5/2009 Christopher Tayler
Independent on Sunday . 17/5/2009 Christian House
London Rev. of Books A 14/5/2009 Frank Kermode
New Statesman . 14/5/2009 Leo Robson
The NY Times . 23/10/2009 Michiko Kakutani
The NY Times Book Rev. . 4/10/2009 Christopher Hitchens
The Observer . 10/5/2009 Tom Fleming
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Fall/2009 Daniel Garrett
Scotland on Sunday . 10/5/2009 Peggy Hughes
The Scotsman . 2/5/2009 Allan Massie
The Spectator . 6/5/2009 Simon Baker
Sunday Times . 10/5/2009 Robert Macfarlane
The Telegraph . 27/4/2009 Jane Shilling
The Telegraph . 29/4/2009 John Preston
Time . 4/6/2009 Neel Mukherjee
The Times . 24/4/2009 Ruth Scurr
TLS . 8/5/2009 Michael Gorra


  From the Reviews:
  • "These are not really stories about music, in any case, but relationship studies, with an emphasis on celebrity and what it takes to be a success or a failure in the modern world." - Jonathan Coe, Financial Times

  • "Like Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro's most recent novel, Nocturnes is mostly written in a deliberately non-vivid, quasi-spoken style, more discursive and less formal than that of his earlier books. (...) There are two very funny scenes in the book, along with some bleak lines of argument, and while many of the stories hinge on artistic talent -- the risks and unkindnesses associated with it; who's got it and who hasn't -- the strong focus on more widespread problems in life makes Nocturnes more than a writer's thoughts on his job." - Christopher Tayler, The Guardian

  • "Ultimately this is a lovely, clever book about the passage of time and the soaring notes that make its journey worthwhile" - Christian House, Independent on Sunday

  • "In this brilliant new book Kazuo Ishiguro maintains his preference for first-person narrative. (...) (T)he possibility of descent or ascent into farce, and the disasters that constitute it, is never far away." - Frank Kermode, London Review of Books

  • "Nocturnes is not an improvement on Never Let Me Go, however. Indeed it is the kind of book one might expect from a writer recovering from a masterpiece -- a diffident, even bashful collection of stories that frequently seems to be apologising for itself. (...) Ishiguro is resisting his strengths to no obvious purpose." - Leo Robson, New Statesman

  • "Unfortunately for the reader, these stories — which, curiously, won rave reviews in Britain — do not share the exquisite narrative command, the carefully modulated irony or the elliptical subtlety of Mr. Ishiguro’s strongest works like Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go. Instead they read like heavy-handed O. Henry-esque exercises; they are psychologically obtuse, clumsily plotted and implausibly contrived." - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

  • "Ishiguro doesn’t put himself to very much trouble with his names. (...) As if in recompense for this banality, Ishiguro does like to afflict his characters with something like Tourette’s syndrome. (...) But these five too-easy pieces are neither absorbingly serious nor engagingly frivolous: a real problem with a musical set, and a disaster, if only in a minor key, when it’s a question of prose." - Christopher Hitchens, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Each of these stories is heartbreaking in its own way, but some have moments of great comedy, and they all require a level of attention that, typically, Ishiguro's writing rewards." - Tom Fleming, The Observer

  • "The characters in Ishiguro’s stories seem familiar, whether they are famous or not; and his descriptions of their acts, emotions, and ideas create portraits that read true. His writing has an elemental eloquence. However, the sometimes wild occurrences -- rooted in whim and sympathy as well as vanity -- in the story "Nocturne," in which the abandoned wife in the first story returns, take Ishiguro’s work here to a new level." - Daniel Garrett, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Characterised by this sense of tranquil stasis and hope stifled, the collection as a whole makes for a lugubrious and somewhat plaintive reading experience. Each tale scales similar arcs, making each a solid part of his nocturne cycle; taken individually, however, they are dissonant things with clipped endings and no resolution." - Peggy Hughes, Scotland on Sunday

  • "The stories are elegant, sometimes wistful, sometimes -- which is worse -- whimsical. What they don't do is inspire belief, and in the absence of belief it is difficult to be much concerned with the characters." - Allan Massie, The Scotsman

  • "There are disappointingly few highlights elsewhere, though. Part of the problem is that each of the stories is narrated in the first person by an almost wilfully uninteresting character; Ishiguro achieves verisimilitude at a high price, because the prose seems underwritten, at times even mundane." - Simon Baker, The Spectator

  • "The most curious thing about Nocturnes is how unremarkable it is. The prose is almost textureless. The plots are repetitive and wilfully uninvolving. And the voices of the five narrators are close to cloned. (...) Repetitious then, you say ? But repetition does make sense as a writerly method here, for the subject of this story cycle is repetition (the repetitions of marriage, the repetitions of performance), as both curse and blessing. And once you begin to realise that repetition is a deliberate strategy on Ishiguro’s part, you start to tolerate it more, and to notice it everywhere: iterated characters and phrases, recurrent motifs (bandages, strings, echoes). So intricate are the structures of recurrence within the book, in fact, that it feels as though you could score them onto a stave." - Robert Macfarlane, Sunday Times

  • "Ishiguro’s volume has the quality of a song cycle, with recurring themes developed in different guises. (...) On a first reading they appear inexpressive: the diction stilted, the narrative one-note, the plot devices wayward. Yet his prose is notable for what, in music, would be described as upper partials -- intervals that resonate after a note is struck. One turns away, thinking the narratives one-note. Yet they resonate long after the book is set aside." - Jane Shilling, The Telegraph

  • "But while the emotional territory may be familiar, the tone is not. Here, when brittle codes of behaviour break down, the result veers more often towards farce than tragedy -- although tragedy is never that far away." - John Preston, The Telegraph

  • "Written in a studiedly bleached style, in which repetitions assume a cumulative detonative force, this is a book drenched with regret. But it is also suffused with sympathy for lives that hide, behind a smile, a diminishment of the dreams they began with." - Neel Mukherjee, Time

  • "All five stories have unreliable male narrators and are written in the first person. The effect is one familiar from Ishiguro's recent novels: an intimate, or confessional, tone that is also deliberately casual. (...) Nocturnes is a set of poised and playful reflections on the falling away of sentiment (.....) Ishiguro brings his wacky and idiosyncratic sense of humour to bear on these dark subjects." - Ruth Scurr, The Times

  • "This set of well-made stories plays for relatively low stakes, but it still comes as a surprise and in most ways a pleasure above all in the collection's deceptive variety." - Michael Gorra, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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Links:

Nocturnes: Reviews: Kazuo Ishiguro: Other books by Kazuo Ishiguro under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Japan in 1954 and moved to Great Britain when he was five. He won the Booker Prize for his novel The Remains of the Day, has received an OBE, and was named Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

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© 2009-2010 the complete review

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