A Pale View of the Hills: What a weird little novel


This is one weird little novel. I read it for book club and I’m so glad because hopefully one of my friends can explain what in the what.

It’s not weird in plot: mother reminisces about a (strange) summer spent with a (strange) ‘neighbour’ in Nagasaki (not so long after the bomb, but long enough). It’s not weird in form: it follows all of the conventions of a realist narrative (with the one exception of using the characters’ names altogether too often in lines of dialogue). But it is very weird in tone: straightforward scenes (e.g. a game of chess) are layered with sinister meaning in ways that as a reader you can’t really sort out why you feel uneasy, you just… do. And so you wait for some kind of macabre climax and you wait and the tension doesn’t build it just sort of persists in this (weird) plateau of dis-ease. This reader was left at the end feeling like some of the strange threads resolved, but that for the most part all I felt was unsettled. Like something strange and bad and weird had happened but when I looked to figure it out… uncertainty. Certainty that it was weird.

So that’s probably the mark of success: the book made me feel things and unusual things. And also a sign that you have to expect going in that the book is weird. Good weird? I think so? Yeah.


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Filed under Book Club, Fiction, Prize Winner

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