"Klara and the Sun," | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider
We readers can get stuck in our favorite, tried and true genres, habitually turning to biographies, romance, mysteries or historical fiction. I usually opt for the latter.
Because I didn’t read the synopsis of “Klara and the Sun,” by prize wining author Kazuo Ishiguor, I had no idea what the novel was about. If I had, I might have been turned off and not ingested this amazing book like I did—trust me, “Klara…” is a character you don’t want to forego, even if she is an AF, an artificial friend. In layman’s terms a robot.
A shop in the city is Klara’s first home, a place where she sits on a shelf with her fellow AF and friend Rosa. Klara longs for Manager to move her up to the front window where she not only draws energy from the sun but is captivated by the goings-on outside the glass, all the people walking by on the sidewalk and such. Klara also is subjected to observing the Cootings Machine, a noisy contraction that spews pollution and clouds the rays of the sun.
Klara is a unique AF in that she’s focused, empathic and perceptive about others’ feelings. This makes her appealing to Manager, and to Josie, a rather frail, pale child of 14 ½ who comes to the shop with her mother.
Mother isn’t taken with Klara because she’s an older model but is talked into her being Josie's AF because Josie won't have it any other way and because Manager tells her of Klara’s “…unique qualities…her appetite for observing and learning.” Still Josie won’t agree that Klara be hers unless Klara’s okay with it—she warns the AF that at times things may be strange at her house—that sometimes she may be unwell.
Klara agrees to go home with her, is pleased to have been chosen, but really hasn't a clue to what the future holds. Readers won’t either, and may wonder why Mother, who seems strained and unhappy asks Klara to mimic her daughter’s voice and gait before the three even leave the shop.
There’s much to relish about this engaging and very different book. Though some of its descriptive details are confusing, it’s a standout because of Klara, who’s warm and wonderful, tolerant and kind. Her faithfulness to Josie, and her willingness to sacrifice everything for her, makes Klara an unforgettable presence in a book that defies categorization, one I highly recommend no matter what reading box you find yourself in.