By Evelyn McDonald
Arts & Culture Reporter
January 11, 2022
At the end of the year, it’s fun to think back on the books I’ve read to decide which one I think was the best. There are many reasons I would pick a book as best read. I have to enjoy it enough to finish it. It needs to stay with me after I’ve done so. While it’s on my mind, I need to come to some conclusions about it.
My 2021 candidate is Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Klara and the Sun.” This book is an easy read. Ishiguro isn’t one to stun you with lacy prose or confound you with plot twists. One reviewer described his prose as ordinary with few flights of eloquence. I would compare his writing to the Asian painting technique. It doesn’t look like much in the individual brushwork. Dark lines on cream or neutral paper for the most part. Stand back a bit though and you can be overwhelmed by the effect.
Klara is a PF, a personal friend and one of a line of advanced robots designed to be a friend to young people. One other fact that shapes Klara’s world is that children in that world can go through a procedure to augment their capabilities. This procedure can come with a cost in terms of the health of the child. Josie is such a child and is struggling with the health issues. She picks Klara as her personal friend. There’s more to the story and a twist you feel coming without necessarily knowing what it is. In the end, we are left with Klara and her thoughts in the sun. Really simple yet moving.
Ishiguro won a Nobel prize for literature in 2017. The Nobel is given for a body of work rather than a single book. Considering the body of work offers an interesting way to think about an author’s message. I’ve read three of his books and they suggest a theme – what it means to be human. The Remains of the Day is about an English butler, Never Let Me Go presents clones raised to be a source of transplant organs, and Klara and the Sun gives us an artificial being.
The butler is human but only in his role. He has shut himself off from feeling. The clones feel and though their fate is terrible, accept being alive as worth the price. Klara is non-human but has more humanity and feeling than one would expect. I recommend Klara and the Sun as I think it is the easiest to read and appreciate. The other two books are also good.
Readers: Your selection for Best Book in 2021?
We may all have done more reading the past two years than in previous years. If you have a favorite book that you read last year, please tell us about it. Write a brief paragraph or two on the book: why you read it, what you got out of it, and why you felt it was the best you read last year. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org Brevity will be appreciated.