Tag Archives: Kazuo Ishiguro

Book Review: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (2/5)

7 May

This is my third Ishiguro book and I own one more that I plan to read at some point. I’ve noticed that Ishiguro’s ‘thing’ is keeping something hidden from the reader. He doesn’t hide it well, but it’s just far enough out of reach that you start to look into it before the text openly explains what is going on. I’ve liked that in his previous books. Honestly, I didn’t feel like this was by the same author. This book was so different and the ‘thing’ was more subtle and less a key part of the plot. I’m still sorting through my feelings on this one more than a week after I finished it.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Other books by Ishiguro reviewed on this blog:

The Remains of the Day
Never Let Me Go Book Club Reflection
Meeting Kazuo Ishiguro

Summary from Goodreads:

The Buried Giant begins as a couple set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen in years.

Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in nearly a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge, and war.

This book was too layered in meaning for me to enjoy. I started reading it and was thinking of the characters being exactly who they were described to be. These are two Britains traveling to see their son. Knowing Ishiguro, I didn’t think there would be more to it. As they traveled, the people they met confused me. Gawain seemed too old to be a knight and his backstory was mixed. Wistan’s linguistic abilities confused me and I didn’t understand why he was so attached to Edwin. It wasn’t until I started getting ready to write this review and saw other takes on the book that I ever considered what the characters ‘stood for’ and what the setting ‘represented.’ I think if a book is going to be an allegory for a couple growing old, it should work as a story by itself. I didn’t feel this one did.

The characters weren’t credible enough for me. I liked the love between Axl and Beatrice but the way she dismissed her pain and their knack for forgetting their pasts (but not what they’d done since the book started) bothered me. I didn’t think of it as relating to Alzheimer’s and dementia in old age. Edwin seemed to have no purpose to me and seemed like a burden to Axl and Beatrice and later Wisten. I didn’t see the point in him and I never would have thought of him as a stand-in for their son. The people seemed like the caricatures they ended up being and I didn’t like them or connect with them.

Axl was the only character I liked. He was so sweet to Beatrice. He always called her Princess and never got angry. He made decisions that were best for her and always had her interests in mind. He was the kind of husband anyone would want.

My inability to relate to or connect with any of the characters is a big part of why I didn’t like the book. I didn’t care what happened to them. After the final scene, I didn’t sit and think about what had happened to them or bother to look up interpretations of the book. I’m only now looking into that! I was OK with the Arthurian setting but the allegory was too strong for me to connect with the characters.

Me, Ishiguro, and my friend Nicole, 2015

I enjoyed the escape from the terrible beast that Gawain, Axl, and Beatrice had. It was after this scene that I started getting confused about timelines so it was the last scene that stuck with me before I was confused. I liked the image of them creeping along in the dark and finding an escape route. It seemed like a good adventure for an Arthurian tale. I did find it a bit inappropriate for their ages, but that was something I could get over.

I really disliked the ending. This might end up in spoilers so best skip down if you don’t want to know that. I was so frustrated that after all the warning’s they’d had, they would still separate with a boatman. I couldn’t believe they’d have no patience to wait or that they’d place trust in a stranger after they’d had bad experiences with strangers earlier in the story. The fog had lifted, they should have remembered what they’d learned but they carried on anyway. It made Querig’s plotline seem pointless.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by David Horvitch. I didn’t like his narration very much. I thought he made Beatrice sound a bit whiney and he didn’t use very different voices for the male characters. It’s fairly often that I find a male narrator whose female voices bother me so this isn’t a surprise but it didn’t help when I was already struggling to stay engaged with the book.

Looking it up now, I see a lot of different interpretations of this story. Axl and Beatrice’s story is about losing one’s memory in old age and reflecting on relationships and their merits. The characters represented themselves and others at different stages of life. It’s all well and good and if I’d known these interpretations, I might like the book better. As it is, I didn’t and I think it would have been more enjoyable if it had been couched in a frame narrative like a dream or book, like how The Princess Bride structures the film. As it is, they were too hidden for my tastes.

Writer’s Takeaway: Ishiguro was trying too hard to say something that I didn’t hear him. It was completely lost on me and I can’t imagine I’m the only one. I think he strayed too far from what made his previous books enjoyable. I think there’s something to sticking to a ‘type’ of book. I wish there had been a bit more realism in this one.

Not my favorite and not an Ishiguro book I’d recommend. Two out of Five Stars

This book satisfied the ‘Pre 1500’ time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
October 2015- The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro | LovingBooks
The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro | Nafka Mina
It’s a Kind of Magic: ‘The Buried Giant’ by Kazuo Ishiguro | Robin’s Books
The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro | Obooki’s Obloquy
The Buried Giant | RobertMBall

Advertisements

WWW Wednesday, 2-May-2018

2 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I’m still moving forward at a fair pace in An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. It’s fun for me but I think it started off with some large stretches of the imagination so it’s hard for me to enjoy it even though the rest has been really great.
So many new books now! I did start Mister Monkey by Francine Prose like I’d hoped to. The preface threw me off a lot and I’m still deciding how I felt about the book. It’s a lot different from the premise and I think I’ll like it. I’ll have a much better idea next week.
I also got my copy of What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self by Ellyn Spragins through inter-library loan. It came in just as I was about to finish my previous book so it’s beyond perfect! It’s a bit shorter than I thought so I’m being hopeful that I can power through this one and keep scaling Mt. TBR!
I grabbed a copy of The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne on CD at the library. I got this book at an awesome bookstore in Cincinnati a few years ago and I’m excited to finally enjoy it!

Recently finished: So many to report! The end of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah had me crying while I was working out and it made push-ups a lot harder! I enjoyed the book a lot and posted my review of it yesterday. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.
I finished Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs Friday. I flew through it and loved every minute. Jacobs is one of my favorite writers. I have only one of his books still to read and I want to get to it right away, but he doesn’t publish very often so I also want to pace myself. I’ll have a review up tomorrow and I’m excited to gush about this book.
I also finished The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. I had to pick my husband up late Friday night and I finished it waiting for him in the car. I think him being out of town for the week helped me finish so many books this week! I’ll post a review sometime next week.

Reading Next: Being at the beginning of so many, it seems a bit presumptuous to put anything here. However, my book club met on Monday and our next selection is The Sellout by Paul Beatty. My other book club read this when I thought I was going to be out of town so I missed it. I’m excited to get another chance at this book! I’m curious about a Man Booker winner from America!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 25-April-2018

25 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: Lots of driving for work and the emergence of spring means that I’ve made significant progress on The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. The book’s really good and I found myself moved near to tears at one point (no, I wasn’t chopping onions). I know the big question is if the older woman in the 1990s timeline is one of the sisters or not and I keep changing my guess. Please, no one tell me!
I’m getting there on The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s still slow for me. This part of the book has been jumping around in time and character and I’m not enjoying it at all. I often find myself confused about who’s talking and if it’s in the timeline or a flashback. I’ll be glad to finish this one.
I’ve made some fair progress on An Abundance of Katherines by John Green but not too much. It’s enjoyable still but not sucking me in yet. John Green tends to suck me in late so I’m waiting for it.
I was able to start Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs and I’m already over half way through it. I adore Jacobs’ writing voice and I’m also a big fan of all the health tips and tricks I’m picking up along the way! I bet this one is off this list by next week. Seriously.

Recently finished: I finally finished Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling! It was great to finish this one up after so long at it. There’s my Spanish book for the year. Phew. I posted my review of the book yesterday so please check that out when you get a minute. It’s not my traditional review, but I’m guessing if you wanted to read it, you probably have by now. Or at least saw the movie. Either way, you likely know the plot by now and I’m not going to say anything new original that you haven’t heard or thought before. It’s pretty much me gushing, I’ll be honest. Oh well.

Reading Next: I hope to finally start Mister Monkey by Francine Prose soon. I’m getting close to the end of Nightingale so it shouldn’t be far off. I still have no idea what this book is about, but I’m looking forward to finding out!
In my efforts to tackle Mt. TBR, I’ve requested an inter-library loan of the book currently sitting on the top, What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self by Ellyn Spragins. It’s a collection of letters and life advice from successful women in various fields. I think it will be a good pick-me-up as I struggle through finals and get ready to head into an accelerated summer class. At least I hope it is.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 18-April-2018

18 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I’m. So. Close! I’m on the last chapter of Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling but my week has been just nuts and I haven’t had a lot of time to read it at night. I swear I’ll get to it by next week, promise!
The Midwestern weather has been terrible so I haven’t done much running and thus not much listening to The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I’m still enjoying the story and hoping something radical happens so I can see why people loved this one more than other WWII fiction. I’m still a bit neutral on it.
To be honest, I’m not enjoying The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro much at all. I know his books keep something hidden from the reader, but I’m lost and confused at this point and I’d really like a clue as to where this one is going. Maybe it will recover, but I’m not counting on it. I’m just trying to finish this one.
I haven’t gotten through much of An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. It’s a rather short book so it shouldn’t take too much longer but I haven’t had lunches to read during. My crazy week involves work and working through lunch. Yuck.

Recently finished: I’m sad to say I have none to report! With two wrapping up last week, it’s not a huge surprise. I’m feeling good about having some for next week, though. Positive thoughts.

I was able to post one review for The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp. It went up last Thursday and I gave the book 4 out of 5 Stars.

Reading Next: I’ll start Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs as soon as I finish Potter. I’m looking forward to a fun read!
Once I finish The Nightingale, I have another book club pick to enjoy as an audiobook. The next one is Mister Monkey by Francine Prose. I know nothing about this one and I’m excited to go into it blind! That’s honestly my favorite way to enjoy a book.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 11-April-2018

11 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: Slow going but I’m still making my way through the end of Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling. I’m at Snape’s flashbacks now so not too much more to go!
I’m still enjoying The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah though nothing has happened that’s particularly stuck out to me yet. I’m hoping something unique happens so I can keep this one separate from other WWII books in my head, but it’s still reminding me a lot of Sarah’s Key.
I’m still a little wary of The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s a lot more fictionalized than I’d planned on reading and I’m losing focus from time to time. I hope to power through this one because I don’t think it’s going to be a favorite.
I started An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. I have to say, so far this is my least favorite Green book. It still has plenty of time to win me over, but so far, I’m not impressed. I hope this will be a quick one and I won’t be reading it forever, as is my ebook custom.

Recently finished: I powered through and finished The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp on Friday. It picked up and got me interested really quickly so I was reading it on my phone every free second I had. When I had twenty minutes to finish it, I pulled the paper book off my shelf and read the last three chapters like that. It’s refreshing to read YA when you haven’t in a long time!

A few reviews that I’ve caught up on, too! First is The Circle by Dave Eggers which I posted Monday. I enjoyed the book and I’ve since watched the movie so I’ll have some opinions on that coming soon. I gave it 4 out of 5 Stars.
The second one is History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. My book club met to talk about this Monday so I’ll have a book club reflection coming your way soon, too! Look for it next week (probably). I gave this 4 out of 5 Stars as well. That’s been a pretty common rating for me lately. I guess that’s a good sign!

Reading Next: I’ve still got Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs lined up as my next physical read. I keep hoping I’ll finish up Potter and pick this up, but it’s taking me just a bit longer than anticipated. I forgot how slow I read in Spanish!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Meeting Kazuo Ishiguro

14 Apr

Kazuo Ishiguro is probably the most famous author I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Maybe Khaled Hosseini could rival him, but that’s debatable. Either way, Ishiguro was a great person to meet and hear read.

IMG_1535He was doing a signing about an hour before the reading so Nicole and I went and got in line about 4:45. Of course, I picked up his latest book, The Buried Giant. While we were waiting in line, we got the terrible news that we could only have two books signed! I was heartbroken. I had a copy of The Buried Giant for myself, one for my father-in-law, and a copy of my favorite of his novels, Never Let Me Go, for myself. Luckily, the kind soul standing in front of me in line heard my plight and offered to take on of my books for me because she only had one! Thank you, kind soul! So I got all three books signed. Ishiguro is a pro and got through 200+ people in line in two hours without seeming rushed or dismissive. He was even nice enough to take this picture with us.

IMG_1534

 

There were some refreshments and then it was time to get in line and rush to get good seats. Luckily, I’m super pushy and we got seats about 7 rows back right on the aisle. The awesome picture of Ishiguro below was taken by Nicole while he was reading.

IMG_1537

Ishiguro read Chapter 11 from The Buried Giant to the full crowd. It took him about a half hour reading at a moderate pace. He was very comfortable with his words and you could tell he’d done this several times before. As you can see in the picture, he read from a paperback copy of the book. I’m guessing it’s a proof copy, but I thought it was interesting he chose to use this instead of the final hardbound book.

He agreed to answer questions for the second half hour of the event from the audience. Before you get too giddy, no, I did not ask my author question (How do I get to where you are) because of a fear of talking in front of so many people. He talked mostly about Giant and how it was an unconventional love story because it was a story about those already in love who had to remember why they were in love. The concept sounds very interesting. The couple is afraid of the bad that comes with the good parts of their relationship. They fear separation from each other and never finding out the truth more than they fear death.

Asked about his books, Ishiguro said that he’s fascinated by stories (plot-driven books) and likes trying to blend genres to find a new way to tell stories. One of his older books that I was unfamiliar with is called The Unconsoled and he said it was an attempt to try a new approach to storyline. Instead of being written as a memory or as a current progression of facts, he tried to write about a current progression where the people the character met brought back memories though there weren’t real flashbacks. I had trouble understanding what he was saying and I think only by reading the book would I really understand.

The buried giant in the title referred to secrets and history of the UK that’s been pushed aside but needs to be recalled. There are surely buried giants in any nation’s history and past. The novel plays with remembering and forgetting. How does a nation remember or forget compared to an individual? Are we deceiving ourselves when we forget? I like the concept.

Ishiguro was asked what books were most influential to him as a writer. He gave two, the first is Marcel Proust. He said Proust was a bit dry for him but that in the middle of the text there were great passages that moved him. He wanted to create passages in fiction that moved people in the same way. It was an element to fiction that wasn’t part of visual description and action, something that was more philosophical. He described it as a ‘texture of memory.’ The other book that influenced him was Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. He said he didn’t mean for it to be very influential, but that he’s found passages of that book that are very similar to his own. He uses a style in which the characters are confiding in the reader and sometimes withholding vital information in much the same way Jane does. I thought that it was interesting he admitted to being so influenced by a book to have the same elements in his own work.

Overall, it was a great experience and one I wouldn’t change for anything. It was well worth being tired while I was in Texas!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

‘Never Let Me Go’ Movie- A great adaptation

16 Mar
Image via IMDb

Image via IMDb

I read this book before I started blogging, but it’s stuck with me well. My book club read it a few months ago and that helped refresh my memory of the plot. With I bought a copy in advance of meeting Kazuo Ishiguro later this month, I decided it was finally time to watch the movie.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

The biggest thing that struck me was the little subtleties around how the doners were treated. We see the truck driver who is delivering the items for the Sale staring at the children as if he expects them to be abnormal in some way. We see the doctors performing the organ donations being very rough with both Ruth and Tommy during their operations. They’re not there to help the patients recovery and have a long healthy life. These little things made the world seem even more creepy.

Having Ishiguro as the executive producer. The movie had all the nuances (except one, see below) that I remember from the book. Even the parts about finding Ruth’s Possible, which I thought would be skipped, were included. I think he fought for his novel and it shone through well.

Picture from IMDb

Movie still from IMDb. See Bill/Rod on left.

Seeing Bill Weasley show up as Rodney.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

De-sexualizing Kathy. In the book, sex was very different from mainstream society because the children were sterile and had no religious ties to their ideas of it. In the movie, sex had the same connotations that it does in our society. Kathy wasn’t sleeping with other guys while she was in love with Tommy. The fact that Ruth and Tommy were sleeping together was highly emphasized, which I thought was strange. This did make the movie a bit easier to swallow and probably helped with the movie rating.

Tracking bracelets. I don’t remember this from the book but it helped explain to my husband why they didn’t ‘just run away.’

How evil Ruth was as a child. There was the scene with the horse toys which I think set the ground well, but the book illustrated much more how manipulative she was and how she made Kathy feel so inadequate so often.

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

Looking for a new copy of ‘Never Let Me Go.’ I loved the scenes in the book of Tommy helping Kathy find a new copy of the song, but instead it was left out. I thought this was a romantic gesture on Tommy’s behalf; something he never would have done for Ruth.

Things That Changed Too Much

Madame seeing Kathy dancing with her pillow being replaced by Ruth. It changed this scene too much, from a moment Kathy thought might help her and Tommy get a deferral to a moment when Ruth decided to keep Tommy away from Kathy.

Overall Reactions

I thought this adaptation was really well done. I was running through everything I remembered about the book when I read it and when my book club discussed it and I can’t think of anything else that was missing. A great book turned into a good movie. I only wish I’d known about it sooner. It seems the UK release never really made it across the pond.

To those who have read this more recently, what did I miss? Anything you would add to my lists?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Friday Book Memes, 13-March-2015

13 Mar

Welcome to the second Friday the 13th edition of Book Blogger Hop, Book Beginnings and The Friday 56 hosted by Coffee Addicted WriterRose City Reader and Freda on Freda’s Voice. Head on over there and check out the other participating blogs.

Book Blogger Hop

This is my first Book Blogger Hop and I plan to make this a recurring thing (as long as I like the questions!). This week’s question is,

What is more important to you when you are deciding to read a book?

There are a handful of things. One is why it’s on my shelf. Is it there because of a book club? Then there’s a time in which I should read the book and I’ll plan my reading around that. Is it part of a reading challenge? That comes into consideration and I’ll skip around my pile when that becomes an issue. Is it on loan from the library or a friend? Then it skips to the top of the list. Is it an audiobook? The books I want to read that have audio versions available to me move up the list faster because I can listen to them while I’m reading a book club selection. Same with eBook formats. Is it an ARC? I try to pull these ahead when I can and if I haven’t read an ARC in a while.

If none of these apply, the biggest thing is how long I’ve been wanting to read it. Goodreads is a huge help here. If a book is on the top of my ‘to read’ list, it gets first priority. There are some on there from when I started using Goodreads that I haven’t gotten to yet. The list grew quickly and I’m afraid I’ll never see the end of it!

Also, shouldn’t it be ‘most important?’ Just grammar-nerding.


 

I haven’t grabbed a new book since last week, so yet again I’ll be featuring an old favorite. I recently bought a copy of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I read this book before I started blogging and my book club read it a few months ago. But I bought it because I have tickets to go meet Ishiguro on the 26th as a part of his book tour for his first book in a decade, The Buried Giant. I’m beyond excited.

BB.Button

Book Beginnings is all about that very important opening sentence (or two) that us writers are always worrying about!

My name is Kathy H. I’m thirty-one years old and I’ve been a carer now for over eleven years.

As far as book beginnings go, this isn’t one of my favorites. It’s a little blase in my opinion. You don’t get a hint of what’s going on in Kathy’s world. But to be honest, Ishiguro doesn’t give you a good idea of it at all until you’re well into the book. It fits with the style, but still is a bit lacking. I guess you can start a book any way you want after you win the Man Booker!


 

Friday 56

The way this meme works is pretty simple. If you want to join in, head over to Freda’s blog and add your link.

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book (I grab the one I’m currently reading)
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.

Nothing overly grabbing from page 56, but this quote gives us a great characterization of Ruth.

Finally she said very deliberately: “Let’s just agree. Let’s agree I got it in the Sale.” Then she gave us all a knowing smile.

Ruth and her darned secrets! She always seemed to be keeping something just out of Kathy’s reach. This sentence refers to the pencil-case Ruth suddenly had and shows how much of an attention seeker she is. That darn Ruth.

I’m going to watch the movie of this book tonight and I’ll have a book to movie review up soon! I hope I remember it well enough to make this a good review.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Club Reflection: Never Let Me Go by Kazo Ishiguro

29 Apr

This was my first time going to a book club without having read the book in the previous month. I know what you’re thinking, that I’m falling behind. No, don’t think that. I read the book, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, in February 2013 and I didn’t think it was worth my time to re-read it so soon after. I remembered the book pretty well and only felt disconnected when our group members talked about specific word choice. Not too shabby.

We’re on a short science fiction kick in this group (and by that I mean this book and the next) and a good place to start in science fiction is the setting. I didn’t think too much about the setting when I first read this book, but our moderator said it was supposed to be an alternative 1990s England. I wondered what it was in the 90s that made Ishiguro imagine it so differently. The book was written in 2005 so he was reflecting on a time gone by. Our group proposed that it was the cloning advancements in the 90s that might have spurred this line of thought. I remember as a child hearing about Dolly the Sheep and wondering when my turn to be cloned would be. As a writer, I wonder if Ishiguro thought of the idea for this book in the 90s and didn’t get around to writing it until the early 2000s, or has been working on it since the early 2000s.

We wondered what was different about this parallel 90s that we didn’t see in the book. One member asked why there were so many organ donors needed. It’s revealed that there are many places like Hailsham where clones are raised. Is the world Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy live in more overrun with disease that large numbers of organs are needed? Is this an extension of the current National Health System? What organization has put together this system? One option we discussed is that due to advances in medicine and technology, the ‘normals’ wanted to live longer and to survive into old age, they needed young and healthy organs.

The society the ‘normals’ live in is never really explained well. We wondered if the normals knew that the clones were clones. Was there something about society that they didn’t know? Did they dress differently? Speak differently? Was there some way to know that they were not going to live to see 30? I wonder how the normals reacted to these people.

We asked each other at what point we started to suspect something was fishy in this world. One of our members only made it a few chapters into the book and she had assumed the characters lived in an orphanage. We felt that it was when donors and carers started coming up that something was fishy. One member thought the book was going to be very medical from the way ‘donor’ was used. I guess, in a way, she was right. One phrase that was used to describe the setting was ‘quietly disturbing.’ I love that.
The characters in the book grew up in such a strange environment that their development seemed a bit odd. They’re all very co-dependent on each other. They don’t have families so their relationships with the other children are very important and they’re very well aware of group dynamics and keeping everything civil between each other.  Kathy and Ruth had a very competitive friendship, but Kathy was always careful to make sure it never came to a head. Tommy was a sort of game between the two girls and even when Kath had feelings for him, she never said anything because he was with Ruth. How much Ruth and Tommy made a good couple or Ruth was using Tommy just to deny him to Kathy is debatable.

I don’t mean at all that the characters were poorly developed. Quite the contrary. They were developed so well that as readers our hearts were wrenched when the characters died. We cheered for Tommy and Kathy when they went to visit Miss Emily and Madame. We hoped they would get a deferment. Instead, the book took a twisted turn and we learned the full truth about Hailsham and the cloning industry. I liked that Ishiguro waited until this far into the book to describe the world more fully. The story of the one boy who tried to run away and had his hands and feet cut off stuck in a lot of our minds. It can only make us think, ‘Well, at least things were better at Hailsham.’

The question raised by this visit was if the Hailsham kids were better off. On one hand, it’s good that they had happy and fulfilling childhoods. Even though they have a bad lot in life to live, they enjoyed it while they were alive. I feel this makes it even sadder when they die. They knew happiness and what it could feel like to enjoy living and then it was cut short. We were conflicted on if we thought the Hailsham kids were lucky or unlucky.

Kath was an interesting narrator to choose. She is very detached from her life and able to describe it in a very abject way. She seems confused by the situation she finds herself in and not really sure how to describe the loss she feels her entire life. She is a carer for so long and sees everyone she loved dying off around her but is very detached from the sadness. We wondered if having her be a carer for so long was a risk to the program. Wouldn’t seeing Ruth and Tommy ‘complete’ (aka DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH) make her more likely to run? In our minds, yes. But in the world Ishiguro created, Kath had to believe on some level that what was being done to her was right and that it was for something greater than herself. And even if she did run, could she blend in to the normal society? She had no paperwork, identification, or anything to prove who she was. There was nowhere for her to go.

One of the Hailsham teachers, Miss Lucy, was kicked out of the facility for telling the kids what their future held. We wondered what the best way is to raise someone who will be used for organ donation. Do you tell that person when they’re young so that they know their whole life what their future holds? It’s a sort of brainwashing, like one hears about in extreme kidnapping cases. Jaycee Dugard didn’t run because she was brainwashed with fear. These children were brainwashed to think their bodies and lives belonged to some governmental agency that would kill them in the end.

Certain plot elements in the story were a bit strange to us. The gallery was one. Why was there so much emphasis put on creativity and art?  Funny enough, I saw this video on Facebook today and it helped me answer that question.

Being able to create is proof that someone is a sentient being, a living thing capable of thought, process, and creation. (As a side note, I am assuming these elephants are just really well-trained. The idea is that people believe they are capable of creating.) Having the children create art proved the humanity of the clones and that real people were being killed for the organs. We wondered if it was some sort of ethical project to try to boycott the ‘organ farms’ where the children were raised.

Another scene we didn’t understand was when they went to see the empty boat. We were confused as to what it meant. The only thing we could come up with is that the boat took a different path than boats are supposed to take. That’s why it’s on dry land so far from water. We guessed that it was supposed to represent how the world had deviated so far from its normal path and Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy were like stranded boats. It’s a weak assumption, but it was the best we had.

The final ‘What the eff did that mean?’ scene was when they went looking for a copy of the tape Kathy wanted. What we liked about it was that they spent their time in the ‘real world,’ some of their very little time with normals, looking for something that was a memory of their time with other clones. We’re not sure what it really meant, but it was a nice nod to how they were stuck in their own reality and detached from the ‘real world.’

There were two themes I’ll discuss before I sign this off. The first is the comparison with animals. There was a reference to how the clones were bred to be sterile and we knew that the ‘normals’ didn’t like this. It gave them a sense of inferiority. There was a guess from one of the clones that they were cloned from prisoners and other undesirables of society so that normals wouldn’t feel like the clones were better than them. We kind of saw this as similar to animals raised for food. There are genetically modified chickens specifically used for large chicken breasts or more tender meat. Is that any better? Is the way science can change things creepy and too invasive? Some people are vegetarians because of this treatment. Were there people in the book’s universe who wouldn’t take organ donations because of the treatment of the donors? The characters had several connections to animals that made us wonder what kind of connection we were supposed to draw. Tommy’s art in the latter part of the book is of animal hybrids. Ruth talks about wanting to ride horses. However, there were never real animals, only drawings and references to them. We wondered what Ishiguro was trying to say.

The other interesting topic was sexuality. Because they couldn’t get pregnant, the characters had very little pause about having sex with each other. It was a very casual thing and they engaged in it because it felt good and for little other reason. Kathy doesn’t even deem her experiences important enough to tell the reader until she’s accused of not having had sex (if I recall correctly). The only concern was disease but by keeping it within the clones, that was not an issue. However, our moderator recalled that they had a negative and childish attitude toward gay sex, but our group couldn’t figure out why that would be. Any ideas?

Ishiguro’s writing is really engaging. I’ve read this book and also The Remains of the Day and I have to say I much prefer this title. He has a great style of adding enough detail to bring a passage to life without bogging it down. He likes to write about people who have a certain lot in life that can’t change and what they do with it. In his own words:

It’s something I do instinctively in my writing and with this book it was a very important feature that escape was not an option. It’s about how we’re all aware of our fate, in that we have a limited time in life. Escape isn’t an issue in the book, because it’s never really an option in our own lives. Characters like Stevens and the kids in Never Let Me Go do what we all do; try to give meaning to our lives by fulfilling some sort of duty.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!