Book Review: Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

Subtitle: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

This is a collection of short stories by a favorite author of mine. While short stories are not something I tend to read, as I prefer longer stories (the size of a book), I was drawn to this book because of its author. By Ishiguro I already read the brilliant Never Let Me Go and the very brilliant The Remains of the Day. I also read When We Were Orphans.

These five stories are all narrated by male musicians, in the first person. In all cases, the story leads them into a strange situation: accompanying a serenade in a boat in Venice, in the kitchen of a hotel with a musical award in a turkey, etc. These situations are at the limit of what is believable, slightly surrealistic. Because of the situations the main characters find themselves in, it’s also quite funny.

Some of the secondary characters return in another story, which I always enjoy. Lindy Gardner, who is serenaded by her husband in the first book, has moved on from that husband in one of the other stories, and it’s fun to see what happened to her next.

I loved the first three stories, but didn’t think the fourth and fifth were at the same level as the other three, in terms of story. The writing is good throughout the book, as one would expect from Ishiguro. The stories are all between 30 and 70 pages long, so they are not very short, and there is a clear building up of the plot.

A short story reader should definitely read this and lovers of Kazuo Ishiguro’s work shouldn’t miss out on this either.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 222

First published: 2009

I got this book: from a bookswap last year

Genre: short stories, contemporary fiction

Have you read this book?

Did you enjoy it?

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

21 Responses to Book Review: Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. Fiona says:

    I enjoyed this too, and it was only my 2nd collection of short stories I’d read. I thought they were all well written, interesting and had a story you could get into even if it was only for a little while. I really must read more Ishiguro… I’ve only read one other (The Unconsoled) and that was weird if well written.

    Have you seen the book trailer to this? I don’t normally like them… but this one I feel is really good. I already wanted to read it before anyway, but seeing the trailer made me bump it up my pile.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Fiona, that’s what I thought – the stories were long enough that you could get into them and get acquainted with the main character. I enjoyed that. I want to read *The Unconsoled* – I think it’s partly about a dream? I can’t imagine I’ll like that but I just want to try because I like the other books by Ishiguro.

      I didn’t see the book trailer before, thanks.

      • Fiona says:

        It’s like being in a dream – or just a really confused mind. Very well written – I can’t say I liked it, but that I’m still drawn to him as an author I think says a lot. Also, I have a feeling I’d like it more if I read it now. I am much more into those kinds of skewed stories where you don’t know what’s real and what’s not real.

      • Leeswammes says:

        I don’t usually enjoy that kind of dream-like writing, Fiona, but I will give the book a try anyway.

  2. Athira says:

    I’ve read one short story by Ishiguro (A Village After Dark) and was very impressed by it. I plan to read more of this books at some point.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I haven’t read anything by this author yet, and this sounds very good. The setting alone is enough to convince me. 🙂

  4. JoV says:

    I only read this, The Remains of the Day (which I love this year) and Never Let me go. It is a problem with short stories, most of the time it doesn’t stick to me but I’m glad you like the first 3 of this book. Thanks for the review.

  5. I’ve only read The Remains of the Day, but adored it, and do plan to seek out more of Ishiguro’s work. I love short stories, so I’d imagine I’d enjoy this. 🙂 Thanks for the review!

  6. parrish says:

    I loved this when I read it & if I remember correctly I said it reminded me of Leonard Cohen’s Dance me to the end of love.

  7. Charlie says:

    When I finally get round to reading Ishiguro, it will be this this book first. I like what you’ve said about the stories interlocking and having that common thread of strangeness, though the length of the stories surprise me, I had thought it was much shorter.

  8. Chinoiseries says:

    This was my second Ishiguro and I felt a little disappointed by it. Not all stories were as entertaining. And it’s not quite at the same level of Remains of the Day or Never Let Me Go.

  9. Biblibio says:

    While I’ve read Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day and have a certain affinity for short stories, I have to admit that not only was I relatively unimpressed by Nocturnes, the book outright frustrated me. Even as a musician myself, I was generally unable to connect to any of the stories or the characters, and felt that the collection overall fell decidedly flat. Even the way the stories tied together didn’t really fit together nicely in my mind…

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