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Klara and the Sun

Klara & the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro—Okay, so first an admission of some baggage I brought to this ineffably beautiful new novel. An artificial friend. Sigh. After the endorphin rush of discovering a new Ishiguro was on the way I  will admit to being a little crestfallen when I read the blurb of Klara and the Sun. Klara (our narrator) is AI—an artificial friend with a target market of lonely adolescents and as such her particular model is highly prized for its powers of empathy and acute observational skills. My heart sank just a bit because the artificial human as subject matter has certainly been around the block a few times recently. I admired Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me from 2019 but it did not stay with me in any meaningful way; ditto Channel Four’s Humans or the HBO Westworld reboot. Too clever; no heart. I think I was also a tad wary that this novel would operate in the same near-future milieu of Ishiguro’s superlative Never Let Me Go, and as such could only retread similar paths.

I was wrong. Klara is as exquisite a novel as I have read in a long time—with an abundance of heart. Indeed an exploration of human empathy and the very notion of selflessness goes right to the book’s very core. Ishiguro’s precise prose is as delicate and poised as always (Klara’s narration has an exquisite unwitting melancholy note), and yet the book has a wonderful page turning propulsion to it. It’s a great story (so I don’t want to give much away)—setting up beguiling questions, but also answering more than enough to keep one satisfied rather than annoyed. There is just a hint (should you wish to read it that way) of the mythic, or the fabular—which could easily kill a lesser novel stone dead. However I feel it is weighted just beautifully—so much so that I continue to have the odd reverie in relation to certain scenes from the book. It is an exquisite book and I can’t recommend it highly enough! One final word—the bookseller in me invariably contemplates the cover image of books, and I have to say the Faber and Faber cover is also a winner. A simple yet perfect melding of  the book’s tone with design.