Book review: Klara and the sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
By Daisy Ward
‘Do you believe in the human heart? I don’t mean simply the organ, obviously. I’m speaking in the poetic sense. The human heart. Do you think there is such a thing? Something that makes each of us special and individual?’
This question is put to Klara, a solar-powered companion robot, who is the narrator of Kazuo Ishiguro’s eighth book Klara And The Sun.
Throughout the novel questions about what it means to be human, what it means to love and how far technology can take us are posed not only to Klara but the reader resulting in a challenging and thought provoking read.
The novel is separated into three main parts, Klara begins the novel in an AF (artificial friend) store waiting to be picked as a companion to a child. Klara is unique from the other AF’s because she is curious about the people outside the store, she makes several clever observations, one being how she notices a person could look both happy and sad at the same time. Which sets her apart as subtly more ‘human’ than the other AFs. This made Klara more endearing to me as I felt she had a human like curiosity similar to a human child.
In the second section of the novel Klara is picked by an unwell little girl Josie. Ishiguro is purposefully slow in this section which allows for the friendship between the two to grow. The bond between the two is emotional to witness as I felt sorry for Josie who is isolated due to her sickness and at times is emotionally neglected by her mother, for reasons we later find out.
Klara and Josie in a way grow up together, in some of their interactions they are mother and daughter and in other moments sisters. This connection and the thoughtful writing of Ishiguro reduced me to tears because they fill a void in each other, Klara is desperate to care and ‘love’ a child and Josie needs to be looked after but fundamentally needs a friend, which she finds in Klara. This relationship is almost reminiscent of a fairy-tale, as their story and relationship appears to be perfect.
The third section is where the plot really hits its pinnacle. Some might say doing this makes the reading experience feel slow, but I would say it is extremely clever. Ishiguro allows us to feel warmed by the growing bond of Josie and Klara only to take it away at the perfect moment, revealing an unbearable twist. I won’t reveal the twist, but keep going as it is worth it.
In the first two sections Klara and the sun is the kind of book you read in a coffee shop with a warm drink and a thick jumper on. The final section is the kind of book you read in your bed at 1am unable to stop reading, eyes wide and a nervous feeling in your tummy.
I found the book heart-breaking. I remember wishing after reading the twist that it had been untrue, and I had dreamed it. But once I finished the book, I took my wish back.
Though the twist was devastating, it was so clever, it changed the book I thought I was reading, it transformed it into a dark and deeply sad book about human connection and loss. And I think that is why you have to read it. Not only will you experience a rollercoaster of emotions, but you will find yourself asking the same questions Klara asks; what does it mean to be human? What is love? Can the human soul be manufactured?
You’re probably asking, why would I want that? Why wouldn’t you? It is important to explore the fragility of humanity, to questions ourselves and our lives.
I think the novel is bound to be a future classic, as it speaks to the universal and innately human experience of loneliness and the need for connection. This book is both joyful and bleak, comfortable and yet equally unsettling, it is an upbeat coming of age and a tragedy. It is all of these and more and that is why I urge you to read Klara And The Sun.