I forgot to mention last week that I finished Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go. Wow, it's still hard for me to believe that this is the same author who brought us The Remains of the Day, one of my favorite books (and, incidentally, one of the few cases in which a film adaptation lived up to the book—I hope you've both seen the movie and read the book; if not, you're in for a double treat). I mean, the writing in both books is just as gorgeous and heart-felt and carefully executed, but the plotlines couldn't be more different. Whereas The Remains of the Day concerned the dying days of a proper British estate and, more importantly, its staff of household help, Never Let Me Go tells the story of a mysterious boarding school for "special children." Hints are dropped here and there about the purpose of the school, but it's left to the reader to piece everything together. I won't give away any more than that.
I picked up and put aside this book many times in the past—picked it up because it was recommended so highly and because I love Ishiguro's use of language; put it aside because I was turned off by the idea that it would be futuristic, sci-fi, upsetting, and just plain weird. Well, it's a little bit of all those things, but it is all done with such a deft hand that I wasn't freaked out by it. Once you start to realize what's going on, you just kind of accept it (albeit with a burning curiosity to know more details about how things came to be this way); this is all thanks to the voice of our narrator, Kathy H., who just tells it like it is. She is at a point when she is looking back on her years at the boarding school and remembering the relationships she had there and what became of them.
Truly, this is a remarkable book, both hard to put down and devastating to consider and reconsider after reading. I am normally not a fan of dystopian novels (I'm still haunted by the memory of The Handmaid's Tale, which I had to read for a college course), but this one was somehow easier to take, probably because Ishiguro really seems to care about his characters and goes out of his way to let them show their heart and soul.
And you know what? The more I think about it, perhaps Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day are not as different as I first thought. Both introduce us to characters who are born into a particular life, one that may seem unfair to us but one that they accept without question as "their lot." They have all the same doubts, fears, and passions as we do, but they recognize that "theirs is not to ask why." We feel for them and want them to ask why, but instead we must just watch them living out their assigned destinies.