Nothing is more irritating for novelists than the expectation of the public that they will remain true to previous form in every way. Publishers in particular are keen on consistency. There is always great in-house consternation when novelists who have built up a following and become profitable with one kind of novel suddenly produce a quite different sort. The usual fans will be alienated and new ones hard to attract. It is those novelists who go on delivering the same goods successfully who are most prized by publishers, and also, to a certain extent, by readers. Everyone knows where they are with, for example, the excellent Anita Brookner – no danger there that she’s suddenly going to go berserk and start turning out, say, magic realism.
If all this sounds horribly like some kind of warning, then that is exactly right. This new novel of Ishiguro’s is the perfect example of a writer apparently chucking everything he is known and valued for out of the window and to hell with the consequences. He has written what