In this Booker-nominated fable, a robot stands in a shop window waiting for a human family to claim her. Klara is an Artificial Friend, or AF, who runs on solar power and has been created as a companion for lonely children – her role is part sibling, part childminder. Klara has a rare aptitude among AFs for observing human emotions, and learns to read sadness, anger and joy in the faces of the people she sees in the street. Watching what appears to be a reunion of two friends, she remarks to the shop manager: “They seem so happy … But it’s strange because they also seem upset.”
Klara, who is the narrator of Ishiguro’s eighth novel, is spotted by a 14-year-old girl, Josie, who brings her mother to the shop and begs to buy her. Once installed in the family home, Klara learns that Josie is chronically ill with a sickness that killed her sister, and that her role will require considerably more than companionship.
New York voice actor Sura Siu adopts a convincingly subdued tone to convey Klara’s android status. The language, and Siu’s reading of it, is spare and childlike, poignantly capturing Klara’s instinctive goodness and desire for connection. The book shares themes with the author’s 2005 novel Never Let Me Go: both have a vision of a future that feels uncomfortably close to the present, and both feature an artificially created protagonist who, in Klara’s case, is more human than the flesh-and-blood individuals she was created to serve.
Klara and the Sun is available on Faber, 10hr 16min
Ashley Audrain, Penguin, 8hr 38min
Marin Ireland reads this tense psychological thriller about the dark side of motherhood.