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Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and NightfallNocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘Nocturnes’ comprises of five loosely interwoven stories that tell tales of the relationship between man and music. Set at nightfall, each piece has its own flavour, with characters in different romantic predicaments that culminate to a moment of revelation.

As I was reading this I couldn’t help thinking about this great concept. After all, I’m one big believer in the thing called the ‘soundtrack to life’. It’s funny how songs flavour and shape the happiest and saddest moments of our lives. So it was with excitement that I picked up ‘Nocturnes’, hoping it would be one of those wonderful reads that takes you back to the times when songs and life’s bittersweet lessons met in a glorious serendipitous requiem. But alas, it wasn’t so.

It’s hard to place as to where the disappointment lay, but I think it has something to do with a misplacement between the characters and the music. They just didn’t seem to fit together. Either there was too much music and not enough ‘story’, or the story drowned out the music. The third story in particular held some vile characters. There was a vile married couple who seemed to think their way of life was the best and anyone else was simply a loser. I didn’t care for any of them, nor did I connect with their shallow needs and two-dimensional personalities. The women were always too wishy-washy, not at all like real women. The men were either too passive or the total opposite. In a novel where I expected music to temper these extremes, I found it only served to excite it.

Ishiguro is a great author, and I’m certain that his other works are much better than this. I think this would have been a novel better written by someone like Haruki Murakami, who frequently uses Jazz themes as a delicate undertone in his novels. Murakami would have captured and shaped the mood of each story far more successfully than Ishiguro.

If you wish to read a novel with musical undertones, I suggest ‘South of the Border, West of the Sun’ by Haruki Murakami (click for my review). It’s far superior to ‘Nocturnes’ and it has just the right amount of moody nostalgia to satisfy the reader.

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