This novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (yeah, The Remains of the Day Ishiguro, that guy) is billed as a dystopian science fiction novel. But, really, it is more about relationships, friends, growing up, our notion of what is reality, and, OK, and about clones.
There. I said it and I’m glad. So now you get the idea there will be nothing of Downton Abby in this book; no butlers, no formal dinner parties, no Upstairs, Downstairs.
It stars a group of young people growing up at an exclusive boarding school in England, and narrated in the first person by one of the young women, Kathy, told as a reminiscence as she, now 31,looks back on her life and the special school, where the staff were referred to amiably as Guardians. She speaks of when they would grow up and be donors and carers. Donors? Carers? Oh dear.
That whole idea is what makes this considered to be dystopian, but in reality, it is only a background for the story of the personalities of the young people and the several Guardians who administer the school.
I found the method of telling the story somewhat tedious in places; the narrator is constantly going back to some earlier incident in order to clarify a current episode she is telling us. The first few times, it was an interesting device. It became annoying after a while, but since I know nothing about writing techniques, I have tried to rethink this and discover why this would be more effective than a simple, straight-line telling. But it began to feel like how a little kid tells you a movie plot: “then they ran out of the building and jumped in the car and drove away. Oh, wait! I forgot to tell you first that before they left the building they had a big fight. And then they arrived at, no wait. Before that, they drove around for a while……” like that. It got kind of irritating. I wanted to say to the author “Maybe if you made an outline first we wouldn’t have to keep going back to previous scenes.” But what do I know. He’s a big deal author. I just read a lot.
In spite of all that, I really liked the book. I found it a page turner, with a lot of the reveal dribbling out in tiny bits and pieces, and it isn’t until near the end that we get this big picture and see that yeah, it is a dystopian novel.