2 words that describe the book―Slow-dawning Dystopia
3 setting where the book took place or characters I met
- Setting: England, late 1990s
- Kathy H. is the narrator of this book, which is primarily about her experiences at a boarding school called Hailsham and some of the things that happened to her after leaving the school. When we first meet Kathy, she is 31-years-old and is looking back on her time at Hailsham in order to make sense of what happened during her time there. Primarily, she wants to examine the relationship that developed between her, a girl named Ruth and boy named Tommy.
- Ruth and Tommy were two of Kathy’s fellow students at Hailsham, and the three of them develop a complex and complicated relationship amongst themselves that changes and morphs several times over the years. It is Kathy’s need to make sense of this triangle that prompts her to look back on her days at Hailsham and the events that took place after Ruth, Tommy and Kathy left the school.
4 things I liked or disliked about the book
- I liked how Ishiguro doesn’t lay all the cards on the table from the start. Much like Kathy, the reader gets bits and pieces of a puzzle that they need to assemble for themselves as the book progresses. Ishiguro keeps doling out the pieces of the puzzle one at a time–holding back a few key pieces until the end of the book. The puzzle starts on the very first page when Kathy matter-of-factly refers to the fact that she has been a carer for over eleven years. Of course, this term meant nothing to me. “A carer?” I thought to myself. “What the heck is a carer?” Then she starts tossing out other terms–like donations–that begin to create questions in your mind. But then Kathy’s story takes on some rather humdrum elements and begins to seem like any other “young people dealing with relationships at a boarding school” book … but then Ishiguro swoops in and lays another puzzle piece before you that has you wondering just what is going on.
- I liked how Ishiguro created a story that develops on two different levels. One is the story that Kathy is telling us–the story of her experiences and perceptions. But as we gather puzzle pieces and start putting them together in our minds, the reader begins to write another story–a much darker and frightening story than the one Kathy seems to be telling us. It is as if the reader becomes part of the story–filling in the gaps that Ishiguro chooses to leave blank. In many ways, I found the book to be almost an interactive reading experience. It was quite interesting.
- I liked how Ishiguro raises a host of ethical issues without addressing them directly. Instead, Ishiguro comes at things obliquely–laying out ethical dilemmas but leaving them unanswered or offering mixed messages based on how Kathy, Ruth and Tommy view their lives. It was an interesting way to tackle these issues, and I think it makes for a good discussion. My mom read this book at the same time as me, and we ended up getting in a rather lively discussion of the variety of topics raised by the book. It would be a good choice for a book club.
- I disliked not getting MORE details about the dystopic world that Ishiguro creates. Once I realized what was going on, I became thirsty for more information on how this society came about and the logistics of how it functioned. As much as I admire Ishiguro’s approach to this book, it also left me feeling dissatisfied. I would have loved a follow-up to this book … a sort of companion book that described the society that led to the creation of a place like Hailsham and a person like Kathy H.
5 stars or less for my rating:
I hemmed and hawed about what rating to give this book, but I finally decided to give it 4 stars. Although I didn’t fall in love with the book, I admire how Ishiguro chose to tell the story. It was a different reading experience, and I have to say I liked it.
I went into this book fairly oblivious about what the story and subject matter was about (and I hope I’ve managed to avoid any spoilers in my review) so I spent a lot of time in the beginning being confused and uncertain. Now it is possible that I am a bit of a dim bulb and other readers (Amanda … I’m thinking of you here!) are clued in as to what is going on from the very start. But I suspect that most readers might have the same reading experience I did.
Although this is the type of book that will confuse you, perplex you, frustrate you, annoy you and (sometimes) bore you, in the end, it satisfies you and sticks with you. In fact, I think I like the book better now writing about it a few weeks after reading it than I did when I first read it. If you like to take chances on your reading or would like to see a different approach to how to write a dystopic novel, I would recommend Never Let Me Go wholeheartedly.
The Whys and Wheres: I added this book to my wish list after reading this review by Alyce at At Home With Books. I got my copy from Paperback Swap
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