It is a bit of a cliché, but this really is a much awaited novel – Ishiguro’s eighth and his first since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017. It falls into the category of science fiction but don’t be turned off if that is not where you usually go. Klara is an Artificial Friend, bought as a companion to a very sick teenage girl, Rosie. Rosie has an illness related to having been ‘lifted’, that is, genetically edited to improve her intelligence. Her closest friend, Rick, has not been lifted and is, therefore, deprived of an education and doomed to a lower station in life.
Klara has outstanding observational powers as well as the ability to empathise with humans around her. She feels sadness, concern, fear and love, especially for Rosie. Her inner life is beautifully described, as is her relationship with Rosie. Questions arise about the nature of love between humans and machines, about the nature of service between owner and servant – a theme going right back to The Remains of the Day, one of his earlier novels. Do machines have the potential to feel or, as one character in the book asks, ‘Should I just treat you like a vacuum cleaner?’ Whose love is more true?
Eternal questions about love and loyalty are raised, here seen through the eyes of an android. Klara has no need for food, but she relies solely on the Sun for energy and life. Thus Sun becomes a central character in the book.
This is an amazing novel by one of the most challenging and interesting modern writers. Another highly recommended novel.