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Booker Longlist 2021: Klara and the Sun

Our first book from the Booker longlist is Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. Six of our panelists read this book. We’ll share three of the reviews and ratings from all 6.

Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954 and moved to Britain at the age of five. His eight previous works of fiction have earned him many honours around the world, including the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Booker Prize. 

Synopsis from Booker Prize website: From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.

In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly-changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

So what did our panelists think? Keep reading to find out.

Anita’s Thoughts: I love books like this one. From the beginning, the premise grabbed me, and then the author manages to maintain this underlying suspense throughout the entire book. The reader is never spoon fed, but there are plenty of clues to help analyze the situation. In this case, a being with artificial intelligence, known as an AF, is purchased from a store as a companion to a sick girl. The story is told from the perspective of the AF, and while she is highly intelligent, her understanding of the world is actually very naive. As such, she is an unreliable narrator, and the reader needs to try to discern what is truly going on. I’m not 100% sure I actually ever did, but that was most of the fun! This book would make an outstanding book club book. It’s easy to read, but raises all sorts of questions from the low level “what just happened here?” to higher moral queries. One plot point strained credulity for me, and that was an unfortunate mar on a very good book.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 15/20

Lisa’s Thoughts: I was looking forward to reading this book, given that there has been a lot of buzz about it.  And, I loved The Buried Giant. However, I was disappointed. The novel is told from the point of view of Klara, who is a humanoid robot companion for a teenage girl. So of course, her emotions are not complex, although she does experience an emotional attachment to the teenage girl —this is likely a useful “emotion” for a companion. But, well, she is robotic.  That’s the point. However, it did keep me from caring much about any of the characters. That lack of attachment may not be important if there is something else really interesting about the book. But, as I read the book, I kept feeling as if I had already read it some time ago.  One key premise — that parents choose to put something important at risk to elevate their child in some way — is certainly not new.  Another premise — that one might make the perceive or actual source of one’s energy into an anthropomorphic god — is also not new.  This all added up to a novel that I just did not get that excited about reading.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 2/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 11/20

Jen’s Thoughts:  I generally have never enjoyed Ishiguro’s books. Unlike Lisa, I hated The Buried Giant with an undying passion and I dreaded the idea of this one making the list because I didn’t want to have to read another of his books (although I bought a copy of it because I was pretty sure it would make the list). I didn’t hate it as much as Buried Giant although I didn’t like it as much as A Pale View of Hills. This book’s premise didn’t feel particularly new or innovative. In fact it reminded of A.I. (the movie with Jude Law). It is well written (as are all his books) and I found it to be a quick and relatively entertaining read but nothing groundbreaking or special that I would expect for a booker nominee. The book was more about the moral questions than it was about character development which I thought was relatively sparse. Overall, it was just okay for me.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 2/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 12/20

Additional Ratings from our panelists:

Ratings BookWorm
Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 15/20

Ratings Nicole
Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 15/20

Ratings Tracy
Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 2/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 11/20

Average rating across panelists:
Klara and the Sun 13.17

We want to hear from you? What did you think of the book? Does it belong on the shortlist? Does this book work on its own merits as a Booker nominee, or is Ishiguro being recognized for his body of work?

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is a “body of work” nom for sure. I read somewhere that Ishiguro says he recycles his themes. That was very clear here. I enjoyed it, but it’s not Booker worthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 11, 2021
  2. I have been shocked at reading some really tough reviews against this book (on other blogs), saying the book is not worthy of a Noble Prize winner. I thought it was brilliantly done, and that it illustrates once again his mastery of so many genres

    Like

    August 11, 2021
  3. I’m with Jen on The Buried Giant – over-hyped and over-praised. To my surprise, I did enjoy Klara. After Giant, I approached Klara with dread, but was pleasantly surprised.

    Like

    August 12, 2021

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