This book is totally different from what I usually read and I am not sure how I feel about that. Sometimes it is good to move out of your comfort zone but I am thinking that maybe I have a comfort zone for a reason.
The book is told from the viewpoint of Kathy, a thirty-one year old who grew up at Hailsham, a boarding school. She and her fellow students know there is something different about them.
All the same, some of it must go in somewhere. It must go in because by the time a moment like that comes along, there's a part of you that's waiting. Maybe from as early as when you're five or six, there's been a whisper going at the back of your head, saying: 'One day, maybe not so long from now, you'll get to know how it feels.' So you're waiting, even if you don't quite know it, waiting for the moment when you realise that you really are different to them; that there are people out there, like Madame, who don't hate you or wish you any harm, but who nevertheless shudder at the very thought of you-of how you were brought into this world and why-and who dread the idea of your hand brushing against theirs."
The book is written in a very chatty, conversational tone with Kathy looking back at her younger years and what has led up to the point she is at now. Nothing is ever very clearly stated but there is an ever increasing sense of horror about the "donations" the students will eventually make and the day that comes when they "complete."
I think my problem with the book is that it presents a truly disturbing premise and a story line that had the potential to be truly harrowing and I never felt adequately harrowed. The characters were flat and their reactions seemed unrealistic. Did no one ever rebel? Did no one ever question the future laid out for them? Did they all just go ahead like sheep to the slaughter? I kept waiting for the angst and the agony and the questioning of life and it never really came. Even when two characters fell in love and faced the future ahead of them it never seemed like they really questioned that future It nevver occurred to them that it was possible to change things, only delay them. Even their dreaming had a fatalistic quality to it. Real life people in real life situations do not always simply march ahead to their doom. Even if they can't change it they might be angry, question, grieve. I felt this level of acceptance worked in the first half of the book where the characters were children and had no contact with the outside world but then it fell apart when they grew up and lived among other people. Surely that is what contact with other people and other ways of thinking does for you? It makes you examine your own life and your own future.
I know what Ishiguro was trying to do but for me it fell flat. Maybe he wanted the acceptance of their fate to be horrifying in and of itself but it struck a jarring note. I finished the book and put it down feeling as if I had been fooled somehow. As if all my emotions were supposed to be stirred up and my empathy engaged and it hadn't happened. I could see how I was supposed to feel but I didn't feel it.
So if you have read this, tell me what I am missing. Maybe this just wasn't the book for me. But for now I think I am going to retreat back into my comfort zone.