**spoiler alert** My book club students chose to read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go, and we were supposed to be about 50 pages in by our meet**spoiler alert** My book club students chose to read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go, and we were supposed to be about 50 pages in by our meeting on Friday. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to devote to reading the book last week, and beyond checking the book out of my library via Overdrive, I had made no progress. I finished the book in a whirlwind over this long weekend.
Never Let Me Go is the story of three students, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, who attend a mysterious boarding school in East Sussex called Hailsham. In this institution, students are taught to create art, and an enigmatic woman the children know only as Madame comes to collect choice objects for her gallery, a great honor all the students strive to achieve. Tommy, upset he is unable to create quality art and will likely never have anything chosen for the gallery, is prone to angry rages and becomes the target of bullies. Kathy reaches out to him, and they become friends. Over time, Ruth and Tommy enter into a relationship, and the students finally come to accept a horrible truth about their existence—a truth that they have been “told and not told,” and that none of them “really understand,” according to one of their guardians, Miss Lucy. For the rest of the novel, Kathy reflects on this awful truth, never quite allowing herself to dream of a different life, until she eventually prepares to serve the purpose for which she and all her friends were created.
One of the reasons I like dystopian novels is that I think they show us as we might become if we entertain some of our darker impulses. This novel certainly reminded me of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, but in many ways, I found it more poignant because it gave voice to a minority that Huxley’s novel lacked.
Spoiler follows, so skip if you do not wish to have the novel’s premise ruined before you read it.
Begin spoiler ->How would it feel to know you had been raised only as an organ farm, to have your organs harvested to cure others? To be completely stripped of your humanity because you were a clone, but to know that you were human in spite of it all? You were curious about your “possible,” the person from whom you’d been cloned. You could feel love, anger, happiness. You had a life of memories. But “normals” recoiled from you and pretended you didn’t exist because, as the children’s former headmistress says, “How can you ask a world that has come to regard cancer as curable, how can you ask such a world to put away that cure, to go back to the dark days?”
One of the questions I had as I read was why Kathy did not try to run away from her fate. Perhaps there was no point, but I wanted her to try. However, all of the clones seem to accept that there is no way out of becoming an organ donor and eventually “completing.” I wondered if this was a result of nature or nurture, but all the clones we meet in the novel seemed to feel it was an inevitable fate. Why, though? Clones clearly passed for “normals.” The fact that Ishiguro leaves this avenue unexplored makes this novel even sadder—the quiet acceptance, or “going gentle into that good night,” the lack of fight, all of this resignation adds this sort of layer of martyrdom for the characters. In a way, it is a more interesting choice than the typical one—most writers of dystopian fiction choose to have their characters fight the machine. <- End spoiler
I was engrossed in the novel; once I started it, I could barely put it down, which was something one of the girls in Book Club told me she felt as well. This novel goes beyond the ethical issues it raises to ask us to consider the humanity of every person we may previously have dismissed, as the characters in the novel say, as “trash.”...more
Jasper Fforde’s latest and seventh book in the Thursday Next series, The Woman Who Died A Lot, picks up Thursday’s story in the year 2004. Thursday isJasper Fforde’s latest and seventh book in the Thursday Next series, The Woman Who Died A Lot, picks up Thursday’s story in the year 2004. Thursday is recuperating from an assassination attempt, and she is looking to run SpecOps 27, the Literary Detectives division, the agency responsible for dealing with forged or stolen manuscripts and works of literature. Meanwhile, she has other problems. Her son Friday has received a letter detailing his new future, now that the ChronoGuard has been disbanded and he will no longer be saving the world from destruction by asteroid HR-6984. Instead, he will murder Gavin Watkins the very week during which the book is set and spend the rest of his life in prison. Meanwhile, her daughter Tuesday is feverishly working on an Anti-Smite Defense Shield to protect Swindon from the wrath of the Global Standard Deity (GSD), who has enacted “a series of cleansings” all over the world “mostly as a warning to His creations that messing with the Big Guy’s Ultimate and Very Important and Unknowable Plan was not going to be tolerated.” Thursday’s brother, Joffy, supreme head of the Church of the Global Standard Deity, is taking a stand against the GSD and means to be in his cathedral when the smiting occurs, but Goliath, the large, evil corporation bent on running the world, has plans to lure the GSD’s smiting away from the city center by gathering together a large collection of unrepentant evildoers with the idea that the GSD will smite them instead. Goliath is up to new tricks, replacing Thursday with synthetic “day player” versions of herself. Aornis Hades is on the loose again, and the mindworm about having a daughter named Jenny that she implanted in Thursday continues to wreak its sad destruction. Thursday, older and and not up to her previous physical abilities, must contend with a rival who manages to push her out of her desired position in SpecOps, relegating her to the deceptively tame-sounding job of Chief Librarian of the Wessex Library Service. But this is Jasper Fforde’s world, where “many frustrated citizens who weren’t selected … to train as librarians … will have to console themselves with mundane careers as doctors, lawyers, and lion tamers.”
If it sounds like there was a lot going on, believe me, I have barely scratched the surface. Fforde’s plot had so much going on that it seemed even he was having trouble containing it, and I admit I gave up trying to follow it and just went along for the ride. I think Fforde is at his best when he lures his readers into the BookWorld, the fictional realm of literature in this series. I haven’t enjoyed the last few books in the series as much as I had enjoyed the first few. The story in this particular book doesn’t really ever come together until close to the end, and at that point, I was already so confused, I had forgotten some of the important details from earlier in the book. However, it’s Jasper Fforde, which means fun and hilarity will ensue. While I didn’t laugh out loud as often as I have while reading his earlier books in this series, I did enjoy the whimsy of Jasper Fforde’s alternative world, just as I always do when I visit it. And I will probably read the promised eighth Thursday Next book, too....more