Book review: Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun is the eighth novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Published in March this year, it was long listed for the 2021 Booker Prize.

Ishiguro won the prestigious British literary prize back in 1989 for Remains of the Day. This, his third novel, was made into a film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. I’d love to see Klara and the Sun on the big screen, but I don’t know whether any scriptwriter could do justice to the narrator’s purity of heart.

One of the lovely things about Klara and the Sun is that its narrator, Klara, is an artificial intelligence created to keep children company. Klara is highly empathetic, has keen observational skills and a childlike sense of wonder.

What I like most about Klara is that her immediate environment is enough for her. She is a very present character. When she is in the shop waiting to be sold, the shop is her whole world and she finds everything interesting. There is fascination everywhere. Likewise when she eventually joins a family.

I don’t know how many stories have been written about AI spirituality. If there are any at all, Klara and the Sun must surely be among the best. Klara is solar powered and believes that the Sun is sentient. Ishiguro depicts Klara’s faith in the Sun with such simplicity and depth. Reading it, I found that I wanted to see the world as Klara did.

As a science fiction fan I enjoyed how the plot depended on some key technological innovations. In Klara’s world, children are genetically enhanced. They spend a great deal of time alone, hence the need for artificial friends like Klara.

Despite the differences between Klara’s time and ours, the world of this novel did not seem at all strange or alien to me. Above all, Klara and the Sun is a novel about people and love. Those things are timeless.

I would recommend Klara and the Sun to any reader. It is an uplifting book but not cosy or fluffy. Some pages may make you cry, so do put it on hold if you’re feeling at all melancholic.

The cover of Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

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