Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel begins confidingly:
You would have searched a long time for the sort of winding lane or tranquil meadow for which England later became celebrated. There were instead miles of desolate, uncultivated land; here and there rough-hewn paths over craggy hills or bleak moorland. Most of the roads left by the Romans would by then have become broken or overgrown, often fading into wilderness. Icy fogs hung over rivers and marshes, serving all too well the ogres that were then still native to this land.
Now you may be charmed or beguiled by this faux-naif opening and by the confidence with which Ishiguro embarks on his tale. Alternatively, you may find something condescending in the tone of voice – ‘would by then have become’ instead of a simple declaratory ‘were’ – and be irritated or