A study in disengagement
Ishiguro was born in Japan and moved to the UK aged 5 – and has, for that, the intriguing ability (like Conrad) to observe ‘British’ from an outside view of within, and a precision of language (like Stoppard) that comes from English not being the earliest language or earliest imprinting. That sense of the outsider is beautifully mirrored in his central character.
This is not ‘a detective story’ in the sense that the solving of a particular crime is important, it is perhaps a detective story, by the reader, into an examination of the detective, Christopher Blake. There are of course ‘Sherlockian’ teasers, that genre is very definitely invoked, but it is far more the study of someone who has got trapped in a world of illusion – the illusion of childhood, a country that can never be returned to, nor yet can be entirely disengaged from.
I assume that it is Blake’s ability to be objective, the uninvolved observer, which makes him ‘the great detective’, but that objectivity is also his fatal flaw – the disengagement of the heart (as evidenced by his relationship to Sarah). Its not ‘the quest’ which Ishiguro is engaged with, it is ‘the quester’; his study is the outsider – and yes of course ‘Remains of the Day’ is a similar territory.
I loved the blue-grey melancholy of this book – even in the midst of ‘horrors’ happening as Shanghai turns into a battleground, there is a strange disengagement – in another book, this might have seemed a writing flaw, but here it seemed all of a piece.