Sunday, 1 August 2021

Book Review: Klara and the Sun


Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (2021)
(The author was the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2017)

(I listened to this book as audio book in Swedish, in July.)

This book is a bit odd - but I think not easily forgotten, and deserves a proper review. 

The story is set in a utopian future, where many children get assistance by an Artificial Friend (AF), a kind of robot (but made to look human), in their home. Klara is such an AF, and the story is told from her perspective - she is the narrator. Klara is very intelligent, and keeps learning from everything she experiences - but at the same time, as her perspective and experience of the world remains limited, so does her understanding.

When we first meet Klara, she "lives" in a shop that sells other AF:s like herself. They take turns being shown in the shop window vs spending their days at the back of the shop, until they are sold. Eventually, Klara gets chosen and is bought as companion to Josie, a teenage girl with serious health issues (not defined in detail), living in a house in the countryside with her mother, and a housekeeper. The parents are divorced; the father also comes into the story a couple of times. Josie also has a good friend, a boy named Rick. He is their next door (or next property) neighbour, he and Jose have been friends since childhood, and he still comes visiting quite a lot to keep Josie company. Klara stays in the room while he is there, but then remains a silent observer. Klara only gets to leave the house on a few special occasions. What she knows of the world consists mainly of what she was able to see and learn from the shop window in town, and later on from the window in Josie's bedroom, which looks out over fields, and some sort of barn on the horizon. Her sole "mission" in life (at least from her own point of view) is limited to one purpose: To help Josie.

On her own, Klara only ever goes as far as to that barn across the field that can be seen from the house (and even then, she needs help from the boy Rick to manage it). As an AF, Klara relies on solar power; and thus, in her world, the Sun sort of corresponds to how humans think of God. When Josie points to the view out of the bedroom window, and tells Klara that the barn on the horizon is where the Sun goes to bed every night, Klara takes this very literally. So when one day she sets out to visit that barn, it is in the hope of being able to speak directly to the Sun about something very important.

While this story may in some ways feel a bit "flat", and also leaves many questions unanswered, I would say that its strength is that while consistently looking at things from Klara's perspective, it forces the reader to rethink our own perception of the world, the depth of our own understanding about how things work and are related, what it means to be human, and what is really important in life.


  1. Hi DawnTreader, Thank you for this post and your review of Klara and the Sun. After reading your review, I clicked over to Amazon and bought the Audible version. It's now on my iPad and I'll start listening later today. The deal maker for me was when you said, about the book, ... "it forces the reader to rethink our own perception of the world, the depth of our own understanding about how things work and are related, what it means to be human, and what is really important in life." Can't wait to get started. Thank you for sharing your blog and for your kind comment on mine. John

    1. Hi John, I hope you'll find the book as thought-provoking as I did, then!

    2. Hi DawnTreader, I'm loving the book. Have finished Part 1 and an hour or so into Part 2. Part of the reason I'm loving the book is your review set the stage perfectly. Actually, I think your review should be the Preface to the book. I'm especially enjoying the way the book forces me to think about the implications for humanity behind the words being spoken. This is fascinating. Currently, I'm wondering about the meaning behind the Cootings Machine that intentionally causes pollution. Thanks again for your review and for getting me started on this book. John

    3. Hi John - wow, that's high praise for my review! Made me actually go to my Goodreads account just now and put a copy of it there, too. (Something I've neglected for a very long time. On there it looks like this is the first book I read since 2018!)


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