09 August 2010

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Thoughts and Reflections:
Recently I had a conversation with a friend and colleague about humanity. I claimed my scepticism regarding the goodness of humans, whereas he advocated that humans are becoming increasingly moral. A book such as this, proves aspects of both of our arguments correct. This novel discusses clones (seemingly a hot topic of late), particularly the treatment of clones. This story takes place in the UK, spanning the years after WWII. The immediate post-war period, according to the story, brought a scientific revolution, resulting in the cure for cancer and cloning. In this story, clones are raised for the purpose of donating their vital organs in their maturity. The reader follows the lives of a number of the "students," who are clones, from their childhood, through their schooling at a place called "Hailsham" and into their adulthood.

I found this novel intriguing. I have never concerned myself much with the idea of clones, and still do not. Perhaps clones are still just too far removed from this present reality... What I found interesting was the theme discussing human response to the treatment of clones. On the one hand, this is a story of growing up, maturing, figuring out ones identity and friends, and falling in love. On the other hand, the underlying theme discusses the treatment of these clones. Hailsham is depicted as unique to the other schools for clones, but only towards the end does the reader discover why. Hailsham is one of the few establishments that treats clones like humans, providing them with culture, education and some degree of life experience. However, this was still a long way from providing the students with self-determination.

The present for the main characters is one where people in society had advocated for the better treatment of clones. Previously clones has been treated terribly. Sadly, however, the trend for the better treatment of clones was fading and reverting back to the previous terrible treatment. The rest of society had a strange mixture of fear and disgust towards clones, yet were so reliant on them for their organs.

Regarding the characters and their lives, they seemed entirely human. All the while, the reader is aware that something is unique about these students, but not able to identify what is unique. About 2/3 through the book the reader discovers they are clones. The characters simply carried on the way children, teens, and adults do. The dynamic between the three main characters, Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy, is also interesting. Ruth, in my opinion, is a nightmare. I found myself frustrated with how she treated her friends, but also that her friends took such treatment from her. I suppose this coincides with the clone theme: the clones never really fought for their rights. None of the characters questioned that they were raised to give their vital organs and die so that someone else, someone deemed more worthy, could live. They just took the bad treatment as if it was no bother. However, through their relationships the author proves the humanity of the clones.

My concern with the clone theme certainly lies in both the clone and non-clone acceptance of the regime. Though this book, I realised how, despite my cynicism, I actually agree with my friend and colleague. I think, perhaps, though the poor treatment might go on for a long time, eventually both the clones and the non-clones would begin to fight for clone rights and better treatment. Such was the case with slavery, anyway... Evidently my cynicism rested on the fact that slavery existed, whereas my colleague's opinion rested on the fact that slavery was abolished. Yet, somehow, the narrator/protagonist, a clone, even after a period of realisation of the real situation of clones, make no motion to change their fate, to alter the way clones are treated, or to fight for self determination. Everyone in this novel is simply resigned to the status quo.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It brought up some very interesting issues and themes were discussed in an interesting way. Though I feel quite removed from the issues of clones, the themes of this book captivated me. I would certainly recommend it.

For some information on the author, please see a previous post on a book, Nocturnes, by the same author (here).

Things I Liked About This Book:
1. The discussion on humanity
2. How the author managed to discuss the theme of clones in a rather simple story of three characters growing up
3. The authors ability to humanise the characters that the novel's setting worked so hard to dehumanise. By the end of the novel, there is no doubt in the humanity of the clones.

1 comment:

Mark, Cambridge UK said...

Yes it's definitely a book a would recommend too;it reminds me in many ways of "The Remains of the Day" for its quintessential Englishness. Reading his novels is almost like reading haiku in prose as every word seems to be carefully selected to convey the right nuance. I'm looking forward to his next work.