When a new novel is published rarely does it polarise opinion as much as Kasuo Ishiguro’s “The Unconsoled”. For many it was a masterpiece, unlike anything else ever written – for others it was simply not very good and roundly vilified. There seemed to be no middle ground.
My own reaction when I started to read it was to draw parallels with Kafka, Ishiguro’s lead character – My Ryder – finding himself in a strange world with which his links were uncertain. The whole experience felt not unlike that of Kafka’s ‘K’. And then I also found myself drawing parallels with the surreal worlds to be found in much of Haruki Murakami’s work.
But “The Unconsoled” lacks the threat and menace of Kafka, and is devoid of the charm and engagement of Murakami. Ryder stumbles from one improbable encounter to the next, bumping into a stream of characters who are flawed, or failing, or needy. That they all seem to need him is somewhat ironic given his own lack of solid foundation. They’re all the unconsoled, I suppose – and, quite frankly, I didn’t care for any of them.
Having read most of Ishiguro’s fiction, I was profoundly disappointed in “The Unconsoled” – and saddened to have to give up on it. I desperately wanted to be in the “it’s magnificent!” camp, but find my allegiance is more with the team on the other side…