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Summary

By the Nobel Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go.

Ryder, a renowned pianist, arrives in a Central European city he cannot identify for a concert he cannot remember agreeing to give. But then as he traverses a landscape by turns eerie and comical - and always strangely malleable, as a dream might be - he comes steadily to realise he is facing the most crucial performance of his life.

Kazuo Ishiguro's eight books have won him worldwide renown and many honours, including the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Booker Prize. His work has been translated into over 40 languages. The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go have each sold in excess of one million copies in Faber editions alone, and both were adapted into highly acclaimed films. His most recent novel, The Buried Giant, was published in 2015, debuting at number one on the Sunday Times best-seller list.

©1995 Kazuo Ishiguro (P)2017 Tantor Media, a division of Recorded Books

Critic reviews

" The Unconsoled is a masterpiece...it is above all a book devoted to the human heart, and as such Ishiguro's greatest gift to us yet." ( The Times)
"A work of great interest and originality.... Ishiguro has mapped out an aesthetic territory that is all his own...frankly fantastic [and] fiercer and funnier than before." ( The New Yorker)
"He is an original and remarkable genius…. The Unconsoled is the most original and remarkable book he has so far produced." ( New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about The Unconsoled

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Dreamlike, frustrating and affecting

I thought this was excellent, but I understand people's difficulty with it. The dream logic is unexpected and unusual. The array of bizarre characters with their hangups and illogicality could be hard for someone expecting a cleaner narrative. But I was swept along, and absolutely loved it.

12 people found this helpful

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Narcissism, ADD, Kafka, and regret intertwined

Recent to audible, this was written decades ago.

Beautifully written and impressively narrated, but frustrating as one gets sucked into a scenario in which the protagonist, Ryder, a famed pianist, is both victim and fool.

His narcissism leads him astray; his attention deficit disorder (not mentioned but certainly appears to be the case!) make it difficult for him to stay on task, and despite narrowing time frames and increasingly important decisions he is unable to perform ethically or effectively. Kafka seems omni-present, it is all somehow absurd and we never determine what exactly is going on, why, or who are the winners and losers and in whose interests they are operating. Ryder is not a likeable person and his return to the town of his youth to share his celebrity is clearly manipulated by local elites and others each wanting to a portion of his fame and time for often unclear but seemingly devious agendas.

As with much of Ishiguro's writing, the relationships are interesting and unfold in their complexity; and tales of regret and what might have been. weave their way across the pages.

A compelling read, frustratingly entertaining ... Somehow I still recommend it!

12 people found this helpful

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Perseverance pays off

This is not an easy book to get into, and I've had a couple of false starts, covering a couple of chapters before giving up, before I decided to "soldier on", probably not a sign of an easy reading. But after I got halfway through the book I found it hard to put it down. It turns out to be a very rewarding read.
Simon Vance has done a marvellous job by capturing the intricacies of Ishiguro's writing. Highly recommended.

10 people found this helpful

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A dream sequence.

Strangely gripping and I suspect easier to listen to than to read Narration excellent too.

9 people found this helpful

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Surrealistic masterpiece

This is a wonderful novel in the tradition of the surrealists and many places it reads like a Luis Bunuel movie with false leads and plots.

Overall it is ridiculous but locally it is coherent and makes sense. It even has a great sense of drama and suspense as it build to what promises to be a climactic finish.

I thoroughly enjoyed every word and found myself laughing out loud often.

6 people found this helpful

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Kazuo chuckling to himself about the Booker prize

It feels as if this is the writer's bet with himself to see for how long he could go on and on without really getting anywhere.
Meandering, Kafkaesque, never-ending, nightmarish wanderings of the main character in a town full of lying, pretentious, mean, horrible little people.
Left me annoyed and frustrated, with the same feeling you get when you wake up from one of those bad dreams full of anguish, circular references and dark meanings.
Ishiguro is a brilliant writer, hence the two stars - the writing is indeed brilliant and weirdly engaging so maybe it is just me. Perhaps it's my fault for not quite finding any meaning in the merging of many of the characters or for not being moved by their agonies but this has got to be one of the most unsatisfying books I've listened to. I think this is mostly to the lack of some sort of catharsis, arrival or explanation. Like I said, it may just be me...

5 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

Terrifically well written, of course, but too boring and slow paced for me. Couldn’t even finish it.

5 people found this helpful

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Couldn’t finish

I got half way and had to stop. The plot is thin and too dream-like in its structure. It started to annoy me and as much as I enjoyed the performance I simply had no interest in continuing. I felt if I kept listening I’d be rewarded with no real feeling of satisfaction by the end and I just didn’t care enough about any of the characters to see how things turned out.

16 people found this helpful

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Thoroughly Absorbing

I know how Ryder feels… so stressed he can hardly recall recent events or his distant past, jumbled memories and plans, pressure of events. The story feels like a portrayal of mental health issues with dream-like account of a life. People resonate with the main character such that they appear reflected in his world and belief system. I just couldn’t stop listening. This narrator does a magnificent job.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Si
  • 07-09-21

A masterpiece

Beautifully written; the prose reminds me of M John Harrison's, and Simon Vance's narration is top class as usual.

*** Possible spoilers ***

It is a long novel and I can understand why people become confused and give up. Taken at face value it makes no sense and the inconsistencies pile up from page one, but once you understand the basic premise, things begin to come together.

The implicit backstory is that Mr Ryder, a mediocre pianist with a drink problem, gets married and the couple have a child. Ryder's low-paid work frequently takes him away from home and this, together with Ryder's bullying and indifference towards his son, leads to friction with his wife and culminates in a bitter separation. During a mental breakdown, Mr Ryder falls into a delusional state whereby he symbolically relives key elements of his life, from his youth - desperately eager to please his hyper-critical and overbearing parents - to his later life, where he attempts to confront his habitual willingness to please those around him and his guilt at not having been a good husband or father. In order to deal with all this he constructs for himself the persona of a world-famous pianist, revered and respected by those around him, touring an unnamed but strangely familiar European city. In this place, various aspects of his personality are presented to him as third parties and strangers turn out to be friends and family. It is this latter story that forms the narrative of the book, the backstory needing to be pieced together from the unfolding events.

A really, really good read.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Elizabeth
  • 13-07-21

Very strange story

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Ishiguro’s other books. It is quite strange like a dream or rather a nightmare and rather mesmerising to listen to. I didn’t finish it. I might go back to it one day or perhaps one night if I’m having trouble sleeping!

There is a comprehensive review of it in The Guardian and this quote is from that review:
“ The Unconsoled can seem frustrating, drawn out and possibly even ridiculous. It is tiring to struggle through a narrative where every moment in the present seems to create its own new past, and the future never quite arrives, where for every step you take forward, you have to take three back and a detour around the corner, too. Where if you try to come back around the same corner, you’ll end up in a completely different place.”

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  • M. J. Walsh
  • 06-07-20

Exploring the inexplicable

Told largely in the first person, this book is an account of a visit to a provincial European city by a man who may (or may not) be a celebrated pianist about to perforn a recital as part of an important civic occasion.

The influence of Kafka is a constant presence in this long novel about exploring an inexplicable terrain of emotional life and temporal dislocation. Although it is punctuated by flashes of clever absurdist humour, for the most part, Ishiguro's own view of his work remains opaque. Readers must make their own maps and seek their own destinations.

A superb reading enhances an unusual book that rewards close engagement.