A Pale View of Hills

Plot summary

During a visit from her daughter, Niki, Etsuko reflects on her own life as a young woman in Japan, and how she left that country to live in England. 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 England. She took her elder daughter, Keiko, to England 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 England, 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."[2]

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.

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