12 August 2021

Review: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro book cover
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy a science fiction novel about an Artificial Friend, but I did! Klara is an Artificial Friend (AF) with extraordinary observational skills who studies the behaviour of people and learns from their interactions. When we meet Klara she's on a shop floor waiting to be purchased and I really enjoyed this period of the novel. Klara is soon purchased to become a companion to teenage girl Josie and the novel explores their complex relationship.

Narrated by Klara, I was captivated by her speech, thought processes, observations, and unwavering drive to look after Josie.

Ishiguro presents themes of loneliness, love, privacy and sacrifice and of course the complexities around treating Klara like a person, an AI, or something in between. The interactions between Klara and the Housekeeper were an amusing touch.

The book is set in a futuristic and somewhat dystopian setting that I could never really understand or fully comprehend. Having said that, I wonder if the author intended to make the setting vague to focus the reader on the family unit instead, rather than what/where/how we came to be where we are.

Longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize, Klara and the Sun was an enjoyable read for me and a slight diversion from my regular reading choices. I'm giving it an extra star for the way in which Ishiguro manipulates the reader into considering whether an AI can 'feel' and prompting in me an unexpected reaction to Klara and Josie's ending.

I enjoyed reading The Remains of the Day back in 2008 and I'm glad I have a copy of The Buried Giant waiting for me on my TBR from this Nobel Prize winning author.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

My Rating:

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  1. Tks for your review Tracey.I have to admit that I am deeply suspicious of science fiction. Despite its potential to offer insights into a potential future, it is too often preoccupied with a tendency to present incomprehensiby amoral characters achieving inconceivable plot resolutions to lamentably common dilemmas. Ishiguro’s latest novel, I was delighted to discover, avoids these tropes. Klara, is just conceivable. She is, amazingly, a logical evolution from Jiminy Cricket, a best friend, guide, mentor and, when needed, a ray of sunshine in her owner’s topsy-turvy teenage development. For me, Ishiguro sets up an intriguing future. Whether it is realistic does not matter, because he writes so well. Whether we locate it in America (probably) or Argentina or Australia does not matter, because teenagers need friends, confidantes, supportive yet largely uncritical partners in their development, and that is what Klara is. Like you, Tracey, I found Klara's android reality sucked me in. While it allows her to observe and empathise without actually becoming emotionally involved, it did the opposite for me - and it is this distancing that provided the novel with its ‘credibility’.

    1. I totally agree with you Neil. Klara never came across to me as convincingly human, her speech patterns and actions were always in keeping with an AI. However, despite this, Ishiguro was still able to make me care about Klara's 'feelings'. Quite the feat. Glad you enjoyed this one too.


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!