Monday, March 31, 2014

Never let me go

I read this a while ago, so my recollection might not do it quite the justice it deserves. This was not nearly as good as I expected it to be.

The story follows Kathy, who is a carer for donors and who grew up in a secluded private school in the English countryside. She's primarily an observer and a bit of a blank slate. We as readers are obviously supposed to inject ourselves into her experiences since she so rarely has an unusual reaction to anything going on around her.

I wasn't a huge fan of the way the book was written, which I'm sure is part of why I didn't like it that much. It's written as a memoir and as such has a meandering, journal-like quality to it. It failed for me as a memoir, though, in that 'Kathy' every so often throws in some little comment that's supposed to create some suspense, I suppose to help draw me as a reader through the next ten pages of peripherally-related memory before she reveals what she was referring to. Sure, that's how some people talk, but I found it more than a little contrived and there were a few spots I was definitely annoyed.

While I liked Kathy, her friends were both jerks. Ruth rather obviously, from the get-go; Tommy less so, though I hated the way he treated Kathy before his fourth donation and completion. Kathy nurses Ruth, who doesn't deserve her friendship, to the bitter end, but Tommy, who supposedly loves Kathy, sends her away. The message seemed to be that people suck at the end of their lives. Maybe that is how it really is, that there are some people who want to renew or maintain relationships at the end of life while others would rather turn inward and shut everyone out, but in the end it felt awfully bleak.

I know, it's lit fic so it's not really about the science fiction-y elements, but as a science fiction buff I was unimpressed with the handling of the cloning humans as organ donors trope. I've seen it handled much more interestingly by other novels (Nancy Farmer's _The Scorpion King_ comes to mind; there are several others whose titles escape me, but they're out there). It's creepy how matter of fact Kathy is about her impending demise. She knows she's slated for a horrible, prolonged death, and she's worked long enough helping her friends going through that transition I suppose it's believable she's come to accept it. Still, I wonder how she could be so calm about her situation. I wonder why she's spent so little effort looking for a way out. Creating people with the express purpose of killing them is horrifying, no matter how nice a childhood you give them, and perhaps Ishiguro is trying to highlight that horror by creating such a banal narrative around it. If he was trying for some kind of extended metaphor (some have suggested racism) it's a little too obtuse for me to pull it out.

Still, I gave it 3/5 stars on goodreads since it is well-written and interesting enough that I did want to finish it. It's one of the more enjoyable literary novels I've read. I shouldn't have gone into it with the expectation of a more science fiction-y novel.

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