An interesting review of the novel from Sarah Kerr at The New York Times.
There is no way around revealing the premise of Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel. It is brutal, especially for a writer celebrated as a poet of the unspoken. But it takes a while for us to get a handle on it. Since it’s the nature of Ishiguro narrators to postpone a full reckoning of their place in the world, all we know in the early going is that we don’t quite know what’s going on.
We have inklings. The novel’s 31-year-old narrator, Kathy H., announces on the first page that she has worked for more than 11 years as a ”carer.” The people she assists in her line of work are ”donors” at a recovery center, in pain and doped up on drugs. Logic suggests that bodily organs are involved. But gently decent Kathy is our host on this journey, and instead of surveying her life in the present (that would be ”England, late 1990’s,” according to an introductory note) she likes to let her mind wander back to the years she spent with her two closest friends, Ruth and Tommy, at boarding school -a fabled, bucolic place in the countryside with the Dickens-parody name of Hailsham.
Kathy and her classmates were taught to think of themselves as supremely lucky for having gone to Hailsham. It was the best, the most privileged of schools. Still, we can hear off notes. The place was run by ”guardians,” who come across like nuns devoted to a faith other than religion. Both maternally protective and weirdly distant, these women prevented students from leaving the campus, and had them screened each week by a doctor. And they kept the kids busy with art projects that seemed freighted with meaning, as if a child’s creative output might hold a clue to her fate. ”Thinking back now,” Kathy says, ”I can see we were just at that age when we knew a few things about ourselves – about who we were, how we were different from our guardians, from the people outside – but hadn’t yet understood what any of it meant.” Slowly, we’re led to see that she and her classmates are clones, reared in isolation at a special school, pampered and sheltered and encouraged to feel like children for as long as possible but trained for a mean postgraduate destiny. Read the rest here.