"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, May 9, 2024


Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Book Beginning quote: 
When we were new, Rosa and I were mid-store, on the magazine table side, and could see through more than half of the window. So we could watch the outside -- the office workers hurrying by, the texis, the runners, the tourists, Beggar Man and his dog, the lower part of the RPO Building.
Friday56 quote:
     'It's maybe not really a barn because it's open on two sides. More like a shelter, I guess. Mr. McBain keeps stuff in there. I went there once with Rick.'
     'I wonder why the Sun would go for his rest to a place like that.'
     'Yeah,' Josie said. 'You'd think the Sun would need a palace, minimum.'
In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love? (Publisher)
Review and a look at some of the book club discussion questions:
     I liked Klara and the Sun but I am having trouble getting a fix on all my thoughts about the book, set in a dystopian future where the "haves" alter their children somehow so that they will be superior to others who could not/do not want to be altered. The process is not without potential risks and, in fact, Josie, the young teen who gets Klara as her artificial friend (AF), just about doesn't survive the process.
     In order to better understand the book I thought I'd tackle a few of the book club discussion questions. There will likely be spoilers, so if you plan on reading this book you may want to stop reading here.

Klara and the Sun (Discussion questions)

1. The setting of KLARA AND THE SUN is sometime in the future, when artificial intelligence (AI) has become more integrated into human society. Which elements of the novel felt familiar to you at the time of reading, which felt hard to imagine, and which were easy to imagine as a possibility for your lifetime?

  • We already eat genetically altered food.  I just read about fish created in a laboratory just today.
  • To some degree we do expect computers to be our children's friends. It is a creepy thought though.

2. Klara is prized for her observational qualities as an Artificial Friend. How do the tone and style of her first-person narration help to convey the degree of her attention to detail?

  • I like that this book was written in first-person. The reader understands that Klara is not human from the way she addresses humans and how she learns. She is unemotional but it made me feel emotional for her.

4. The details of Josie’s illness are kept vague. Based on what we learn from the conversations among Helen, Chrissie, Paul and Rick about the choices parents make for their children in this world, how might that have affected Josie’s condition?

  • Whatever was done to Josie altered her DNA in such a profound way she barely survived it and her older sister didn't. Yet, the parents went ahead with altering Josie. Sal's death cast a big shadow over the story, though the details happened outside of the confines of the book. Of course I was curious what it was that they did to her but I didn't get the idea that Josie was made more intelligent from it.

6. Before Klara goes home with Josie, Klara and the other AFs have a rapport with one another, especially with Rosa. What do these conversations, thoughts and feelings suggest about the sophistication of the AI technology in the novel, or about the unknown depths of the AFs’ consciousness?

  • As Klara watched the outside world she gained knowledge and understanding. Rosa didn't seem to be as curious as Klara or seem to care as much about what was happening outside the store.

7. What does Klara’s connection to the Sun suggest about the nature of her inner world? Is her understanding of its power based mostly on what seems to be the plain facts of her existence --- that she is powered by solar energy --- or something deeper?

  • As intelligent as Klara was, she was remarkably stupid about the Sun and the orbit of the earth. She actually thought the sun went to bed in the barn and got up in the morning. She treated the Sun like the all-giving life force, which makes sense because she needed the sun to recharge her batteries.

9. Discuss Klara and the Mother’s trip to Morgan’s Falls together. How does the natural setting help the Mother to reveal some of her vulnerabilities and fears? Why do you think the Mother makes the choices she does for her daughter?

  • This was the really creepy part of the story -- how the mother loved Josie (and Sal before her) so much she was willing to sacrifice their lives for their advancements. But here we start to understand that Klara is being groomed to step in as a surrogate if needed.

11. Consider some of the ways that the characters in the book socialize: the “quick coffee” with the Mother and Josie, the kids’ “interaction meetings,” Josie and Rick’s drawing meetings, and the sessions Josie has with Mr. Capaldi. How did you interpret the tone and atmosphere of these moments of connection between humans?

  • The mother was old enough to remember having friends and outside relationships. Now children had to have social opportunities arranged for them by their parents. It is sad to think this is what is happening with our world, too. Kids take remote learning and never learn how to navigate through relationships.

12. What was your opinion on the plan to turn Klara into an avatar of Josie? Who would have benefited most from Josie being able to “live” on in another form? Would you have made the same choice for your child or a loved one in the same situation?

  • Well, clearly Josie wouldn't have benefited. She would be dead if Klara was her avatar. The mother thought she loved Josie so much she couldn't give her up, but could she really have accepted Klara as her daughter? I doubt it. I would never do such a thing. 

13. Klara and Paul share a moment of concern and consideration regarding her ability to learn Josie’s heart, which he describes as: “Rooms within rooms within rooms.... No matter how long you wandered through those rooms, wouldn’t there always be others you’d not yet entered?” (216). What do you make of Klara’s response about the finitude of such metaphorical rooms? Would you say, in your own experience, you’ve been able to explore and learn all the rooms of your own heart, or another person’s?

  • Clearly there is no end to the depth of each of our hearts/self/ego. It was folly to think otherwise. What bothers me was why did Paul, the father, go along with this plan?

14. Would you describe the relationship between Klara and Josie as love? Where did you notice what seemed like genuine love to you in the novel?

  • Love? At times it seemed that way at least going from Klara to Josie. But the parting, when Josie was leaving for college was so impersonal. I cried.

16. What did you make of Klara’s personification of the Sun, particularly in her final plea to save Josie? She observes in the layers of glass “that in fact there existed a different version of the Sun’s face on each of the glass surfaces.... Although his face on the outermost glass was forbidding and aloof, and the one immediately behind it was, if anything, even more unfriendly, the two beyond that were softer and kinder” (273). Have you ever experienced nature and other nonhuman entities in a similar way? What value does this have in our ability to experience compassion for each other?

  • The is the crux of the story, I think. Klara was very naive but also so determined to help her girl. 

17. What did you think of the place where Klara is sent after Josie is finished with her? What does this bring up about the moral and ethical considerations of integrating more AI into society? Did her fate bring to mind that of any people you know?

  • I couldn't figure this part out. Was she sent? Or did she just somehow end up there? At one point she noticed an old blender from the housekeepers kitchen. What she at the dump waiting for the end of her battery life? Another part I cried over without really understanding what was happening.

18. Who, in the end, seems more human to you --- the people in the novel, or the AFs?

  • Why Klara, the AF, of course.

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