So I am clearly the last person in the universe to have read this novel but I don’t care, sometimes it’s good to come at these things when everyone else has had their say and the initial fuss has died down, though I guess the film version had interest flaring up a bit and I must admit that it was the movie adaptation that got me thinking that I should probably have a go at this.
So this is the story of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy and their special upbringing at Hailsham and how they find out what that really means. The story is told looking back by Kathy, who can probably be argued is an unreliable narrator but I’m not so sure that is the case here; we all look at the past from our own perspective and try as hard as we might we can’t help make others look worse and ourselves look better even while we think we don’t. I won’t say much more about the plot (such as it is) because you are either one of the few people still not to have read it in which case I don’t want to spoil it, or you have read it so you already know.
I rather like Ishiguro, though I’ve probably only read his first three novels, Remains of the Day being a special favourite. I know that he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; the Book God hasn’t had a go, and Silvery Dude found The Unconsoled so frustrating that he claims to have thrown it across the room. I’m not sure I can say that I enjoyed this one as the subject matter is such that enjoyment might not actually be possible, but it was a real reading experience and I did want to find out how things would work out for them all.
I found it terribly sad, I have to say, and it’s a sadness that has lingered with me several days after I finished the book. Thinking about what it must be like to effectively have no past and no real future except the one that is created for you, and no control over your destiny, just unbearable.
I always find it interesting when a mainstream author wanders into sci-fi, though I get the impression that Ishiguro wasn’t really interested in the detail of the world he created, seeing it presumably as just a useful backdrop against which to examine his themes. And that’s my only quibble with the book; as a lover of sci-fi I had loads and loads of things I wanted to know about this world, about donations and completion and how it all worked and what actually happened, which in the novel is unsatisfyingly vague.
But I’m glad I read it and as I said, it really stuck with me
(still thinking about it now…)