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I CANNOT understand why this book is so famous and well-reviewed. I don't get it. I don't get why Michiko Kakutani called it "the best book of the decade". UM, NO. NO WAY.
The concept is interesting (if freaky)---it's the future; in a dystopian Britain, and people are cloned in order to have ready sources of internal organs and body parts if the original humans get ill. So these cloned people (each with a "twin" who is a real/born human that they may never meet) are raised in what seems a typical, elite, country boarding school. They never question why they have to wear bracelets that tag their whereabouts. All they know is that they are special children being raised for "donations". They don't know yet that most of them will never see their 30th birthdays.
The dynamic of this society is never explained, and that's just one of the amalgam of problems that cloud this entire book/thing/concept. I just can't get my head around it.
The program starts taking organs from people when they leave school. Some of them die on their first donation. (They call death "completing"). Some die on the second. I believe the maximum number of donations is 3; and then the cloned donors are sent to some kind of workhouse. Because they're "expendable".
This is a concept that could work as a book, but it's neither clearly explained nor presented.
There's too much melodrama and not enough room for the reader to figure out what kind of book this is. Is it trying to be a dystopian novel? A 1984? Because it sort of succeeds at that, but not fully. We don't know if it's the government that orders this, and we only have scant and fleeting details about the program itself. Maybe, if that's intentional, it can be said to create a sense of uncertainty that the characters themselves feel. But I don't think it is intentional.
Furthermore, Ishiguro can't seem to decide how the hell he wants to write this book. Here's this dystopia, and he spends most of the book talking about the everyday happenings and memories of Cathy, a former student at this cloned-donor school. Literally, the entire book can be encapsulated into the following: Cathy went to school with a bunch of kids. She liked Tommy. This other girl also liked Tommy. Because she was jealous of Cathy, she kissed Tommy. (They're like, 11). Then they all grow up and get their own monitored apartment together, and said other-girl wraps a possessive girlfriend-arm around Tommy because she doesn't want him to be with Cathy.
Sound like Circle of Friends, much? Or Mean Girls? Or....I don't even know.
So this very odd romantic melodrama occupies more space than it should, and, let me say that the character development in this book is, like, NIL. I never got a sense of who Cathy was; she seemed to say so little (even though she's the narrator) that she came across as aloof and slightly apart from everything. Maybe she's meant to be an "observer". But makes the book severely lack an engaging character and impetus.
I use this word a lot with books I tend not to like: vacuous.
Utterly vacuous. You can open any part of the book---any part at all. REALLY---and not have to have understood anything that happened before because not only is the plot non-linear, it's completely outside any organization of theme. I don't know what I was supposed to take away from this book.
The writing is not bad. It is good. It's good writing (in that it's not, like, cringeworthy). But, apart from that, I can't get it.
I don't know if Kazuo Ishiguro and Ian McEwan think they have this "new wave postmodern nihilistic stream of consciousness [only in McEwan's case]" revivalist attempt in British literature. I don't know if they think they're creating a new genre. McEwan is one thing, but the fact that critics have hailed Ishiguro's novel as "the best of the decade" is a bit chilling. If this is the best of the decade, and I can't figure out WHY the hell it was written, or if the book has NO direction whatsoever, then this decade must have been pretty bare. Except I know, for a fact, that it wasn't, since I was reading books that were actually engaging.
So unengaging, so uenventful, I'm sorry, Kazuo Ishiguro, you sound like a nice guy and you're a good writer but I count this among the most incomprehensible books that need never have been written.