‘Klara and the Sun’ is heart-wrenching, satisfying, and everything you’d expect from Kazuo Ishiguro

Beatrice Villaflor
  • The Nobel Prize-winning author’s latest novel explores what it means to be human
  • The book combines science fiction and ‘literature’, and will be loved by fans of his ‘Never Let Me Go’
Beatrice Villaflor |

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Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Published by Faber & Faber

ISBN 978 05713 64886

“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 is a question put to Klara, the narrator of Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest book – who isn’t human.

In other words, she is being asked: what does it mean to be human?

Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro’s first novel since he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2017, poses fundamental questions about life, death and memory. Yet at its core, Klara’s story is one of identity.

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As an Artificial Friend, or AF, Klara’s inquisitiveness allows the author to examine our world in new ways.

Klara is a type of robot with a human appearance designed to serve as a companion to a child or teenager. She dreams of this moment from the very beginning, living in a store that sells AFs on a busy city street.

When Klara becomes Josie’s AF, the “connection” between the two is so palpable we soon find ourselves rooting for our protagonists.

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The interactions between them are are poignant. Klara’s relationship with the 14-year-old moves in cycles; they come together and grow apart, on and off and on again. Despite this, there is great affection between the two as Klara tries her best to integrate with the family.

Klara has to figure out how to get along with the Mother and the housekeeper Melania. But her main aim is to keep Josie – who has an unexplained illness – happy and safe.

However, the prevalence of conflict and inequality within this “futuristic” society, and within Klara’s household, is increasingly revealed as the AF learns more about herself and the complexities of relationships and reality.

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Adding to the mix is Klara’s deep respect for the Sun, which she regards as a kind of “god”. Cynical readers will balk at Klara’s one-sided conversations with the Sun and her determination to receive its nourishment. Yet this relationship is just further proof that Ishiguro can combine genres in one novel, from science fiction to modern mythology.

The novel leaves no loose ends, with a heart-wrenching twist providing the crux of the story. Readers will find themselves tearing through the pages, eager to find out what happens to Klara and Josie.

Like in his 2005 sci-fi novel Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro explores the depths of the human experience and questions the notion of the human heart.

Fraught with guilt, longing and grief, Klara and the Sun will leave you misty-eyed, satisfied and thinking about it for days to come.

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