Genre: Fiction, dystopian (?)
Hardback 288 pages
Book Source: borrowed from the library
My Rating: 97/100
Recommended by Nikola of Nikola's Book Blog
As a child, Kathy—now thirty-one years old—lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.
And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed--even comforted--by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham's nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood—and about their lives now.
"If you are to have decent lives you have to know who you are and what lies ahead of you, every one of you." (pg. 81)
"You poor creatures," she repeated, almost in a whisper. (pg. 272)
This is a tough review to write because I don't want to give away the main "issue/secret". So please bear with this cryptic review.
This is a story told in mostly remembered memories of three friends who grew up in an English boarding school. Kathy the narrator relates past events, saying things like, "Looking back now I was probably feeling..." Hindsight is 20/20 and I believe that is what she is doing. Situations are always clearer when looking back on them.
There are two words mentioned early on that deal with the secret at the heart of the story. When I first read them, I thought, "What? What the heck does that mean? This can't possibly end well." And then throughout the story, I, just like Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy, know this thing is lurking in the background. Something is off. But the reader and the friends forget about it, and go on with the story. Unfortunately, the story ends up showing that their fears about this secret manifest in the way they behave. Tommy lashes out because a little part of him knows.
Towards the end of the story when the secret is out in the open, as horrified as I wanted to be, I wasn't. The secret is a matter of fact, nothing can change it, life goes on. This is pretty much how Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy deal with it. What choice do they have? I think that's what makes this book so haunting. That this secret is accepted and life moves on. May real life never get this way.
Despite the point of the story, I enjoyed this book immensely. The writing is beautiful and easily felt. Another reason I enjoyed it so much was because this was so different than what I have read in the past. This was a book with true, deep down, emotional human feelings. This book struck a chord with me, and I now consider Ishiguro one of my favorite authors.
Thanks to Nikola's post for finally pushing me to get the book. I know many bloggers and read and recommended this book, but it was after his post, that I finally just requested it from the library, thinking "I have to read this now!"