Now that I read it, I have little to say that is not already expressed by the reviews on the back of this book. As a big fan of The Remains of the Day, I saw that comparison right away. What must it be like to look back on your life and be filled with remorse? What is the difference between memory and truth, and how does an author writing in the first person convey them both and the discrepancy between them?
When a novel is as short as this one is (163 pages), it is tempting to call it a jewel (as the LA Times does). But I can think of no better word. Just as in the Ishiguro, there is not a single note out of place. Some samples –
“It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age; when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others” (88).
“Though why should we expect age to mellow us? If it isn’t life’s business to reward merit, why should it be life’s business to give us warm, comfortable feelings towards its end? What possible evolutionary purpose could nostalgia serve?” (90).
“But time. . . how time first grounds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible when we were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them. Time. . . give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical” (102).
“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but – mainly – to ourselves” (104).
“Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be” (115).
“Who was it said that the longer we live, the less we understand?” (143).
Winner of the Man Booker Prize, this novel is well worth reading. And re-reading.