Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

Title:  Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall
Author:  Kazuo Ishiguro
Release date:  September 22, 2009
Publisher:  Knopf
Pages:  240
Genre:  Fiction, short stories
Source:  Library

When I started Nocturnes, I figured I’d read the book slowly, maybe one story at a time (there are five in all), or even partial stories here and there.  I didn’t expect to read the entire book in two sittings, but that’s what ended up happening.  I just ended up being really swept away by Ishiguro’s writing and the characters he created here.

These five stories all have music in common, and they all have some aspect of nighttime in common as well.  But other than that, they are extremely different.  In fact, each story is told in first person POV, yet I could clearly distinguish between the five different narrators.  You know how sometimes you’re reading one book that’s in first person, and then you switch to another book in first person and it takes you several pages or even several chapters to get acclimated to the new narrator and distinguish him or her from the person you were previously reading about?  That is so not the case in Nocturnes.  These five narrators were so distinct and wholly individual that it was such a simple task to switch from one to another when one story ended and another began.

There is something about Ishiguro’s writing style that I just love.  I can’t put my finger on it, I just know that if he rewrote the dictionary I’d be absolutely captivated by it.  There is a quiet confidence to his writing that is hard to explain and impossible to replicate.  These characters and their stories just came alive with his writing – I became lost in these stories, mundane and simple though they were on the outside, with Ishiguro’s beautiful writing they were anything but.

Admittedly, I enjoyed a few of the stories more than the others – I think that of the five, Crooner was my favorite and Cellists was my least favorite.  But even with Cellists, which I truthfully thought was only okay, I still found myself immersed in the story and caring about the characters from the first page.  Something about the way this book was put together just spoke to me, and I really enjoyed even those less than perfect moments within.  I also think that this would be a good introduction to Ishiguro (having only read two of his books myself, I’m hardly an expert but I’m just thinking here…) as it’s easy to get a glimpse of his style from these five short stories.

As you can clearly see, I highly recommend Nocturnes as I found it a truly enjoyable little book.  I was swept away by the beautiful writing and these intriguing characters in this volume of short stories.  It was well worth my time and I’ll be reading more from Kazuo Ishiguro in the near future.

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21 thoughts on “Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. Short story books sometimes do that to me too. I just can’t stop reading in between the stories no matter whether I plan to or not. At least with the really good ones. 🙂 I haven’t yet read anything by Ishiguro, but he’s on my must read author list. Perhaps this collection of stories is a good place to start! Thanks for the great review.

    1. You’re welcome! I do hope you get a chance to try this one out. It’s well worth your time, especially for someone like you who enjoys short stories alraedy!

    1. You know what’s funny, I actually don’t love the cover. There’s a different cover, perhaps it’s the British version, that is black and much prettier, in my opinion. But to each his/her own. 🙂

    1. This is definitely a great short story collection. Another short story author whom I love is Jhumpa Lahiri. Either of her collections, Interpreter of Maladies or Unaccustomed Earth, would be wonderful places for you to begin enjoying short stories. I hope you try one or all of these books out soon!

    1. yeah I like short stories on audio, too. Nice and easy to get into the flow and rhythm of the story without requiring too much concentration from the listener. You’re right, perfect for travel.

  2. Yay! I’m glad you enjoyed this collection! I LOVE Ishiguro, but I read a lukewarm review of this one, so I was saving it until I’ve read everything else he’s written, lol.

  3. Heather, hi, I just added your review to my post. I’m so happy to see we feel exactly the same about this book. My favourite is also Crooner and my least fave is also Cellists (but I still like it, nevertheless, because, like you say, it’s equally absorbing, though not as beautiful as the other stories).

    Funny, because I thought the exact same thing before reading it, to probably read one story at a time, in between other reads, but then couldn’t put the book down and finished it in three sittings (two if I had a choice). So, yes, the same as your comment on my post, I also agree with you completely on everything here. Loved this book!

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