During a visit from her daughter, Niki, Etsuko reflects back on her own life as a young woman in Japan, and how she left that country to live in Britain. As she describes it, she and her Japanese husband, Jiro, had a daughter together, and a few years later Etsuko met a British man and moved with him to Britain. She took her elder daughter, Keiko, to Britain to live with her and the new husband. When Etsuko and her new husband have a daughter, Etsuko wants to call her something "modern" and her husband wants an Eastern-sounding name, so they compromise with the name "Niki," which seems to Etsuko to be perfectly British, but sounds to her husband at least slightly Japanese.
In Britain, Keiko becomes increasingly solitary and antisocial. Etsuko recalls how, as Keiko grew older, she would lock herself in her room and emerge only to pick up the dinner-plate that her mother would leave for her in the kitchen. This disturbing behavior ends, as the reader already has learned, in Keiko's suicide. "Your father," Etsuko tells Niki, "was rather idealistic at times...[H]e really believed we could give her a happy life over here... But you see, Niki, I knew all along. I knew all along she wouldn't be happy over here."
Etsuko tells her daughter, Niki, that she had a friend in Japan named Sachiko. Sachiko had a daughter named Mariko, a girl whom Etsuko's memory paints as exceptionally solitary and antisocial. Sachiko, Etsuko recalls, had planned to take Mariko to America with an American soldier identified only as "Frank." Clearly, Sachiko's story bears striking similarities to Etsuko's.
About the Author
Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2017. He was born in Nagasaki, Japan, 8 November 1954. His family moved to England in 1960 when he was five. Before the Nobel Prize Ishiguro received four Man Booker Prize nominations and won the 1989 prize for his novel The Remains of the Day. In 2008, The Times ranked Ishiguro 32nd on their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".