Ratings : 3.5/5
I borrowed this book from my MBA classmate. My first for Kazuo Ishiguro, a British-Japanese who writes about English life. One reader expressed amazement that a Japanese can write about the psyche of English. Why wouldn’t he? He is raised as a British since he was 4!
Since it is my first book for Ishiguro, I am not sure if his first person narration style was suited for the befuddled mind of the character herself or it is genuinely Ishiguro’s writing style. At times I find it irritating. It is longwinded, beat around the bush and then come back to what the passage is meant to be conveyed. Guess I would need to read his highly acclaimed “The remains of days” to find out.
It is about a carer named Kath who is relinquishing her role as a carer and reminiscencing her time in Hailsham, an orphanage with guardians. Every now and then a lady known as Madame make routine visit to Hailsham and take away art work that is worthy for the gallery. What the gallery purpose is for, the students never knew. While Kath recalled her days at Hailsham, How Tommy and her made a theory about what’s going around Hailsham. Why Ms Lucy said this and that, why Ms Lucy told Tommy it is not his fault that he can’t be creative, and so he got nothing to contribute (mostly paintings and poetry) to the Exchange event. About Ms Emily cried when Kath did her impression of cradling a baby and sang the song by Julie Bridgewater titled “Never Let Me Go”, knowing that Kath will never have a baby. And there is that time Kath helped Ruth and Tommy resolved their differences when they had a short break-up. Tommy, Ruth and Kath moved to Cottage after Hailsham and lived with other veterans, who may necessary not come from Hailsham. Ruth sucking up to Chrissy and Rodney and sidelined Kath and Tommy, Only when she came to Kath on their daily chat does she behaved like the Ruth that Kath know. Meanwhile Kath had one-nighters with lots of the veterans. Also the fact that she read porn magazines to find her “possible”. A Possible is a real life person that may provide an idea of what students from Hailsham would become. Ruth aspires to be this office girl and Rodney claimed that he saw Ruth’s possible in Norfolk. So all of them decided to go there to track down Ruth’s possible. In the Norfolk trip, Tommy suggested that Kath should visit a record shop selling old albums and find her missing Julie Bridgewater’s album so that Tommy could buy it for her. How Ruth had turned Kath words’ against Tommy saying Tommy’s picture animals are stupid. That was the deciding point when Kath left the Cottage and began her life as a carer.
The tide turned again a few years on, when Ruth started the donation, and Kath became Ruth carer. Before Ruth died she got Madame (Marie-Clare) address and persuaded Kath and Tommy to go see Madame and show proof of work that Kath and Tommy is in love to get 3-year deferrals for completion, on the basis that art reveals the inner shelf. They met Madame Marie-Clare and Ms Emily and the truth be told that all rumours about deferrals and a life beyond being a donor is bleak. They are an experimental clone whom purpose is to provide organ donor to those patients who need them. They are not expected to feel, to have a soul, outsiders considered them repulsive fro having clones for these sole purpose. The book didn’t reveal this until towards the end, but along the way you would have fairly guess. This is probably the only sci-fi element in the book, but other than that what they feel pretty much describes what a real adolescence or young person should be feeling. We would have probably felt the same confusion before we leave secondary school, not knowing what’s out there in the big wide world. We would have a friend like Ruth, whom seems to care and not care at the same time. We would have someone like Tommy, whom we grew up together and found out at the end (probably too late) that we are in love with each other. We are probably like Tommy or Ruth, faced with impending end to life and determine to provide some meaning into our lives.
I do not know how the donation system works. I kept wondering why they can’t choose to lead their own lives. Run away from the need to become a carer or a donor. It is not like anyone is hunting them down to fulfil the purpose. Anyway, I don’t know.
Ishiguro narrates every incident painstakingly detail. The story has none of those shocking revelation, nor fast actions, nor big bombshells. It is just little things that created the emotional tension between friendship and romantic relationship; Julie Bridgewater’s record amongst the many pile of records, something that Ms Lucy said or somebody else said something or what is not being said, Ruth’s glare. Emotional sensitivity and buried anguish rein as common theme throughout the story.
The ending? It is predictably sad. The mood throughout the book leads to a sad ending. Kath closest friends died. They are completed. Remembering the past is great, but I don’t want to be like Kath haunted by the past. I used to be like that. But I had moved on. Moving on is the only way to cherish what I have before me.
A unique writing style, unique story. Quiet, dark, melancholic, sad, infuriating at parts, not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ll be looking out for Ishiguro’s other books.
I got the last 200 pages of the book from http://lichuan.wordpress.com/2008/04/07/clones-have-feelings-too/:
The only indulgent thing I did, just once, was a couple of weeks after I heard Tommy had completed, when I drove up to Norfolk, even though I had no real need to. I wasn’t after anything in particular and I didn’t go up as far as the coast. Maybe I just felt like looking at all those flat fields of nothing and the huge grey skies. At one stage I found myself on a road I’d never been on, and for about half an hour I didn’t know where I was and didn’t care. I went past field after flat, featureless field, with virtually no change except when occasionally a flock of birds, hearing my engine, flew up out of the furrows. Then at last I spotted a few trees in the distance, not far from the roadside, so I drove up to them, stopped and got out.
I found I was standing before acres of ploughed earth. There was a fence keeping me from stepping into the field, with two lines of barbed wire, and I could see how this fence and the cluster of three or four trees above me were the only things breaking the wind for miles. All along the fence, especially along the lower line of wire, all sorts of rubbish had caught and tangled. It was like the debris you get on a seashore: the wind must have carried some of it for miles and miles before finally coming up against these trees and these two lines of wire. Up in the branches of the trees, too, I could see, flapping about, torn plastic sheeting and bits of old carrier bags. That was the only time, as I stood there, looking at that strange rubbish, feeling the wind coming across those empty fields, that I started to imagine just a little fantasy thing, because this was Norfolk after all, and it was only a couple of weeks since I’d lost him. I was thinking about the rubbish, the flapping plastic in the branches, the shore-line of odd stuff caught along the fencing, and I half-closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I’d ever lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was now standing here in front of it, and if I waited long enough, a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field, and gradually get larger until I’d see it was Tommy, and he’d wave, maybe even call. The fantasy never got beyond that – I didn’t let it – and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn’t sobbing or out of control. I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s accolades:
He was featured in the first two Granta Best of Young British Novelists: 1983 and 1993.
He won the Booker Prize in 1989 for his third novel, The Remains of the Day. An Artist of the Floating World, When We Were Orphans and his most recent book, Never Let Me Go, were all short-listed for the Booker Prize, with the latter being named the runner-up.
In 1998, he was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
On Time magazine’s 2005 list of the 100 greatest English language books since the magazine formed in 1923, Never Let Me Go was the most recently published book on the list.
- A Pale View of Hills (1982)
- An Artist of the Floating World (1986)
- The Remains of the Day (1989)
- The Unconsoled (1995)
- When We Were Orphans (2000)
- Never Let Me Go (2005)
- A Profile of Arthur J. Mason (Original Screenplay for Channel 4)(1984)
- The Gourmet (Original Screenplay for the BBC; the script was later published in Granta 43)  (1987)
- The Saddest Music in the World (Original Screenplay) (2003)
- The White Countess (Original Screenplay) (2005)
- Three short stories in Introduction 7: Stories by New Writers (1981)
- Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (2009)