Saturday, November 27, 2010
Readers of this blog know that I'm not a fan of a certain kind of science fiction, and for the first several chapters of this book, I found myself in unfamiliar territory, reading of "carers" and "donors" and "completing." My guide to this strange land was a narrator, Kathy, who gets to explaining it all in her good time. She retraces her childhood history in an odd school called Hailsham. She tells us of her best friends, Ruth and Tommy. She withholds, for a time, the worst of the facts animating her life only because those facts are to her mere (or almost mere) matters of fact, and because what interests her is what interests the rest of us: love, friendship, fate, the tiny nearly indiscriminate details that turn a life this way or that. She is calm when she has no right to be. She is human, except, perhaps, she is not. She is bound to a destiny laid out for her by a world that has found a way to cure the big diseases, at a cost she never labels horrific, grotesque, nightmarish, unright. She leaves such judgments to us.
As a narrator, Kathy relies on no flourishes, few metaphors, a paucity of adjectives. She reveals what she remembers in the order that she remembers it, and so that means we read through a maze of clauses that begin, "What happened then was..." or "Before I get to that I should explain..." or "Another thing I noticed was...." Kathy's not a writer. She's a carer. Kathy's not like you and me; why should she dress her story up? If I typically want more from the sentences on the page, I was, by mid-book, perfectly satisfied with Ishiguro's artistic choices and anxious to see the story through.
I finished the book just now, having risen early to complete it. I am left haunted—moved as every human being should be by the prospect of a world in which health (the power of some over the destiny of others) is the awful great divide.
I had, by accident, left The Quickening Maze at home. I'll start on that this afternoon.