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I picked this upon impulse. At home, looking for something for the train, I recognised the author’s name and thought that I may as well give it a go. And I’m so glad I did because I loved this book. The narrator is Kathy H., a 31 year old woman, and the book is her memories of life at boarding school. She and other students lived at Hailsham where they were taught by the “guardians” and brought up in a privileged manner. But all is not as it seems and throughout the novels there are hints at something darker.
This is one of those sci-fi books that snobby literature types read, I don’t think it was ever marketed as sci-fi, but being as it tells of an alternate world, with dystopian overtones, and advancements in certain areas. It is a great example of soft sci-fi in that it is concerned with how people and individuals react more than it is bothered by how machines or science actually works.
Throughout the novel the reader is aware that things aren’t quite right, but we aren’t told outright, gradually things are made clearer so that at some point we know exactly what is going on, yet in a way, because of those hints, it doesn’t surprise us. In many ways what Ishiguro does to the reader is what was done to the children of Halisham.
The characters in the book are curiously resigned to their fates. None of them really try to avoid it, none even seem to think of avoiding it, apart from deferring it by a few years. Which of course raises the whole idea of free will and what makes a person a person. Just as importantly the narrator never seems to make a totally definite statement. Her story is one made up of memories, a fact she constantly reminds the reader of, telling us that now her interpretation might be different. Or maybe it didn’t happen that way, maybe she is mis-remembering.
Overall it is a little on the depressing side, what with the resignation of the character’s towards their own fates, but it is still worth a read.
This is tagged as both UK author & Japanese author because Ishiguro was born in Japan, but is a British citizen.