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Summary and book reviews of Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro X
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2021, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 1, 2022, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elspeth Drayton
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About this Book

Book Summary

Klara and the Sun is a magnificent new novel from the Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro--author of Never Let Me Go and the Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day.

Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.

Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

In its award citation in 2017, the Nobel committee described Ishiguro's books as "novels of great emotional force" and said he has "uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world."

Excerpt
Klara and the Sun

When we were new, Rosa and I were mid-store, on the magazines table side, and could see through more than half of the window. So we were able to watch the outside – the office workers hurrying by, the taxis, the runners, the tourists, Beggar Man and his dog, the lower part of the RPO Building. Once we were more settled, Manager allowed us to walk up to the front until we were right behind the window display, and then we could see how tall the RPO Building was. And if we were there at just the right time, we would see the Sun on his journey, crossing between the building tops from our side over to the RPO Building side.

When I was lucky enough to see him like that, I'd lean my face forward to take in as much of his nourishment as I could, and if Rosa was with me, I'd tell her to do the same. After a minute or two, we'd have to return to our positions, and when we were new, we used to worry that because we often couldn't see the Sun from mid-store, we'd ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The setting of Klara and the Sun is sometime in the future, when artificial intelligence (AI) has become more integrated into human society. Which elements of the novel felt familiar to you at the time of reading, which felt hard to imagine, and which were easy to imagine as a possibility for your lifetime?
  2. Klara is prized for her observational qualities as an Artificial Friend. How do the tone and style of her first-person narration help to convey the degree of her attention to detail?
  3. Does the term "Artificial Friend" resonate at all with you now, as a contemporary reader in the age of social media and the internet? What's the difference in the level of interaction between children and their "artificial" versus their real/human friends?...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

While the uneasy mood of Klara and the Sun is partly due to blatant parallels to today's world, it also results from the novel's somewhat traditional depiction of the relationship between humans and AI. On this front, Ishiguro's work does not break any new ground; the tensions present in many other stories are implicit here, too. Yet despite drawing on previously explored themes, Ishiguro is generally able to avoid falling into cliché. This is partly because of the emphasis the author places on faith. AFs are solar powered, and exercise a sort of belief in the sun that resembles religious worship, largely stemming from it being their source of energy. Klara views the sun as an omnipotent force capable of healing humans and AFs alike. This allows for a degree of spirituality not often seen in stories about AI, and imbues Klara's experiences and outlook with a very human inclination...continued

Full Review Members Only (736 words).

(Reviewed by Elspeth Drayton).

Media Reviews

New York Times
For four decades now, Ishiguro has written eloquently about the balancing act of remembering without succumbing irrevocably to the past. Memory and the accounting of memory, its burdens and its reconciliation, have been his subjects. With Klara and the Sun, I began to see how he has mastered the adjacent theme of obsolescence. What is it like to inhabit a world whose mores and ideas have passed you by?

Los Angeles Times
Moving and beautiful…an unequivocal return to form, a meditation in the subtlest shades on the subject of whether our species will be able to live with everything it has created…[A] feverish read, [a] one-sitter…Few writers who’ve ever lived have been able to create moods of transience, loss and existential self-doubt as Ishiguro has — not art about the feelings, but the feelings themselves.

Washington Post
Leave it to Kazuo Ishiguro to articulate our inchoate anxieties about the future we're building. Klara and the Sun, his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in 2017, is a delicate, haunting story, steeped in sorrow and hope...Of course, tales of sensitive robots determined to help us survive our self-destructive impulses are not unknown in the canon of science fiction. But Ishiguro brings to this poignant subgenre a uniquely elegant style and flawless control of dramatic pacing. In his telling, Klara's self-abnegation feels both ennobling and tragic.

NPR
Like a medieval pilgrim walking a cathedral labyrinth in meditation, Ishiguro keeps pacing his way through these big existential themes in his fiction. Klara and the Sun is yet another return pilgrimage and it's one of the most affecting and profound novels Ishiguro has written...I'll go for broke and call Klara and the Sun a masterpiece that will make you think about life, mortality, the saving grace of love: in short, the all of it.

The Atlantic
It aspires to enchantment, or to put it another way, reenchantment, the restoration of magic to a disenchanted world. Ishiguro drapes realism like a thin cloth over a primordial cosmos. Every so often, the cloth slips, revealing the old gods, the terrible beasts, the warring forces of light and darkness.

The Guardian (UK)
There is something so steady and beautiful about the way Klara is always approaching connection, like a Zeno's arrow of the heart. People will absolutely love this book, in part because it enacts the way we learn how to love. Klara and the Sun is wise like a child who decides, just for a little while, to love their doll. 'What can children know about genuine love?' Klara asks. The answer, of course, is everything.

Associated Press
Ishiguro's prose is soft and quiet. It feels like the perfect book to curl up with on a Sunday afternoon. He allows the story to unfold slowly and organically, revealing enough on every page to continue piquing the reader's curiosity. The novel is an intriguing take on how artificial intelligence might play a role in our futures...a poignant meditation on love and loneliness.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
As with Ishiguro's other works, the rich inner reflections of his protagonists offer big takeaways, and Klara's quiet but astute observations of human nature land with profound gravity...This dazzling genre-bending work is a delight.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go...told in hushed tones...A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible

Library Journal (starred review)
With restrained prose and vivid language, Ishiguro replaces the tired trope of whether computers can think with a complex meditation on whether computational processing can approximate emotion. Ishiguro's latest novel is without resolution but will leave the reader with wonder.

Reader Reviews

Becky H

disappointing
Oh MY! I still am not quite sure what exactly was going on in this interesting Sci-fi (I think) novel that is ultimately unsatisfying. Yes, we know what happens to Klara, but we are still unsure exactly what happens with or to anyone else. Is ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Gene Editing

Visual of gene-editing technology One of the central mysteries in Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Klara and the Sun surrounds the question of how some children are "lifted" and others are not. Seemingly benefiting from a class-based or other means-based differentiation, those who are lifted have access to higher-quality education and additional advantages. Precisely how some children are lifted is never entirely clear, though it is implied early on that medical or scientific intervention is involved, and some type of gene editing seems to be a likely explanation.

There are several forms of genome editing (gene editing) technology in the modern world that allow scientists to manipulate the DNA of various organisms. Perhaps the most scandalous use of such technology (and the ...

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