Klara awaits her turn in the window, an opportunity to soak in the nourishment from the Sun. Klara is an Artificial Friend, AIs designed to be companions to children. She’s an older model, so has spent some time in the store, with her friend, Rosa. She looks forward to the day she is chosen and can go on to be a child’s best friend.
You may have noticed that Kazuo Ishiguro has a new book out. Klara and the Sun is a bittersweet book about an Artificial Friend, the lengths parents go to and what makes us human. It is also possibly a cautionary tale on not topping up your vitamin D in winter, but maybe I feel that way as we creep out of winter and remember what the sun feels like…
To Klara, the Sun is almost godlike. He provides her nourishment, implying that she’s solar powered, but she also thinks she sees the Sun bring a homeless man back to life. This event shapes Klara’s belief over the rest of the book.
It’s told in first person narrative from Klara’s point of view, and she is naïve but lovely. She’s been designed to hang out with kids, to be a good influence on them, although Josie is a teenager, old enough that Klara much watch over her and Rick for fear of hanky-panky. Klara really does care for Josie, above all others. She is her purpose in life, so when she ails, Klara must find a way to help.
Klara may be an older model, but she is very perceptive, learning how to read the humans closest to her. She tries to work people out, to better understand them and make sure she does the best job she can.
Kids can be hurtful sometimes. They believe if you happen to be an adult, nothing can possibly hurt you.
There is also a story of class divides, the haves and have nots. Josie’s friend, Rick, has not been “lifted” and he is viewed with suspicion because of this. He is treated as a second-class citizen, not eligible for most universities despite his intelligence and skills. It’s easy to guess what being lifted involves, and it is revealed briefly later on, but what is important is that it creates a divide in society.
I wasn’t too keen on what happened with Rick’s mother, there’s a scene that’s just awkward and I’m not sure of the relevance. She is trying her best to give Rick an advantage, or make him have slightly less disadvantage, yet she is made out to be the bad one in the scene. Maybe she shouldn’t have done what she did but who can blame her.
I suppose with both Rick’s mother and Josie’s father, these characters are barely known by Klara. Her knowledge is childlike, so when something is revealed about them that seems sudden, it may just be that she’s been shielded from this, or just not been privy to what they’re really like. I did find these things jarring though, and not necessarily all that important to have included.
Other than that, I thought Klara and the Sun was a charming book.
ATY: 31. A book by an author whose career spanned more than 21 years
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