Saturday, November 06, 2010

Never Let Me Go

(written Oct 15)
I just put down Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. The book may not sound familiar to you, but you've likely heard of the upcoming movie starring Keira Knightly and Carey Mulligan (love her!).
At the time I'm writing this, the movie has yet to be released... but I'm putting it on my go-to list as the performances will no doubt be award-worthy.

The book. Here's the back cover blurb:
From Booker Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro comes a devastating new
novel of innocence, knowledge and loss.
As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at hailsham, an exclusive
boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial
cliques and mysterious reules--andteachers were constantly reminding their
charges of how special they were.
Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Rutha nd Tommy have reentered her
life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past
and understand just what it is that makes them so special--and how that gift
will shape the rest of their time together.
If you don't already know, and it's revealed very early in the book, so I don't think I'm letting out a big secret... is that these 'special' kids are being bred/raised for the sole purpose of organ donations. They're clones, with no parents or families, who will go on to make up to four 'donations' in their young adult lives before 'completeing'.

It's narrated by Kathy H, a 'carer', a sort-of nurse to the donors before she'll become one herself, who thinks back to her time at Hailsham and her relationship with her best friends Ruth and Tommy.
It all appears rather innocent, her reminisces about classes and cliques, artwork and crushes... while their destinies are never questioned, not a rebellous streak in any of them.
Though well written and engaging (which made it worth every cent of the $15) I can't come right out and say I loved it because underneath all the gentle flowing narrative is a highly disturbing subtext. The reader, who understands what's going on from almost the outset, keeps waiting for the breakthrough, the aha moment when these characters come to terms with who and what they are... but it never really happens.
Yes - I get that this was the point, but it left me shaken.
The book never once questions the moral/ethic dilemma, leaving that instead to the reader, and this particular reader kept hoping someone would step forward to champion for right. I suppose Miss Emily, the headmistress of Hailsham did, in her own way, by creating this sheltered world for the donors, and yet... it wasn't enough.
Then again, this story can serve as an analogy for any number of wrongs being committed in the world right now under the guise of science or politics or war and here I sit, in the comfort of my suburban home, wondering which pizza place I'll order from tonight.
Perhaps this book served it's purpose -- to make me think, to question, to not accept things just because society has deemed it a norm.
Damn you Ishuguro, for making my brain hurt!
Have you read this book or seen the movie? I'd love to hear your thoughts...