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2013 DISCUSSIONS > THE UNIT vs. NEVER LET ME GO Discussion

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message 1: by Elena (new)

Elena If you have read the book NEVER LET ME GO by Ishiguro, or if you will plan to read it in the future, please let us know how you would compare THE UNIT to that one. Some people have mentioned that they are similar.

Here is the summary for THE UNIT:
One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty–single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries–are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders. In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful. But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and…well, then what?

THE UNIT is a gripping exploration of a society in the throes of an experiment, in which the “dispensable” ones are convinced under gentle coercion of the importance of sacrificing for the “necessary” ones. Ninni Holmqvist has created a debut novel of humor, sorrow, and rage about love, the close bonds of friendship, and about a cynical, utilitarian way of thinking disguised as care.

And here is the summary for NEVER LET ME GO:
From the acclaimed author of The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, a moving new novel that subtly reimagines our world and time in a haunting story of friendship and love.

As a child, Kathy–now thirty-one years old–lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed–even comforted–by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.

A tale of deceptive simplicity, Never Let Me Go slowly reveals an extraordinary emotional depth and resonance–and takes its place among Kazuo Ishiguro’s finest work.

So if you have read or will be reading both in the near future let us know how these book share a common thread(s). How do these books influence us? I will definitely be reading both this month, so I'm looking forward to hearing from people that will have done the same :).


message 2: by Val (last edited Jun 09, 2012 12:53PM) (new)

Val A couple of questions.
This contains a 'spoiler' about "Never Let Me Go".

Both books concern a group of people destined to be organ donors, living in 'idyllic' surroundings. Friendships and relationships formed in these surroundings form an important part of both books.

What did you find pleasant or unpleasant about each living environment?

Which author created the most believable scenario, and why?

What opportunities are there to escape, opt out of or rebel against the programme in each case?

What is the importance of the friendships and relationships formed? How do they affect the protagonists's actions?


message 3: by Susan (new)

Susan I have not read "Never let me go" for a while and it is a book I plan to re-read for my bookclub, so I am slightly limited on what I can remember, but I know that I enjoyed "Never let me go" far more than "The Unit" - although I liked both. I think Hailsham had parallels with the Unit, in terms of both sets of people were valued in different ways. Somehow, NLMG was more believable to me. People are more accepting when they are young and there were more controls over their behaviour - letting people live their whole life and then expecting them to accept being carted off to a facility and used for organ donation was harder to accept. I think far more people would want to escape or run.


message 4: by Val (last edited Jun 26, 2012 03:36AM) (new)

Val I did not believe in the scenario of NLMG more than that in The Unit, but it mattered less that I didn't believe it.
The characters in NLMG have very little interaction with society, they are certainly never part of it. They are not the children of parents, they are clones of unidentified originals. They do not work, apart from as carers for other clones. We find out nothing about the people their organs go to, or which organs they are donating. There is no debate about the morality of creating these clones, only about whether they deserve or benefit from a pleasant life when growing up (cf ethical farming v factory farming, not vegetarianism v meat eating). The whole scenario is set up so that they only have each other and these are the important interactions in the book.
In "The Unit" the role and the judgement of society matters. Although the characters spend most of their time in the unit, they have lived in society beforehand. Society put them there, or rather made them put themselves there. For the book to work we need to accept that society could and would. (I can believe the 'could', but have problems with 'would'.)

Are pensioners or teenagers more rebellious?
The characters in NLMG age from childhood to thirties. Apart from Tommy doing a bit of foot stomping and arm waving, they accept their fate. They have hopes of a reprieve, but don't complain when there isn't one. I suppose that they could be genetically engineered to be accepting, but Ishiguro doesn't mention it.
Pensioners might complain, but few do much about trying to change things. Fifty for women or sixty for men (plus a few years in the unit) is quite young to decide that life is over, but a lot better than at thirty or younger. There might be a few 'oldies' who go on the run rather than go to the unit and there are some in the book who commit suicide (to retain control over their own bodies?) rather than enter it. A lot would think that they had lived their lives the way they wanted to and accept that this was the result.


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