Perhaps I’m a little bit slow on the uptake when it comes to this book, but I truly believe this is a novel I should recommend, even if it’s been on the shelves for quite a while now. If, like me you are one of those readers who doesn’t quite enjoy soppy, romantic stories commonly classified as ‘chick-lit’, perhaps this may be a great romantic alternative for you.
Although the story centres on a love-triangle amongst the three main characters, so much else goes on in the novel that the romance becomes secondary to these other more pressing matters.
Before you proceed however, I do feel like I should warn you, I might be referring to some aspects on the novel which aren’t on the blurb, so if you’d rather jump right into this book knowing nothing about it, perhaps it would be wise to stop here. I myself already knew something about the plot before starting to read this book since I had seen the trailer for the 2010 movie, however, I still enjoyed it immensely.
The novel has been classified in the past as sci-fi – but don’t let this put you off. It’s true that the novel presents a dystopian future where clones are being manufactured as a solution to modern day illnesses. However, what the novel presents above all else is an unapologetic depiction of the human condition.
As you begin reading the novel, it becomes somewhat confusing who you should be identifying yourself with. Although the protagonists of the novel are so relatable and have emotions as strong as our own, deep down you become guiltily aware that in the face of progress (especially progress which means curing awful diseases that have wrecked so many lives), you would probably react much like the outside world of the novel. Although you might flinch at the injustice, you begin to realise that the protagonists of the novel are only important in so far as they are organ receptacles in the grand scheme of things. Furthermore, try as you might, you would probably end up supporting the system which objectifies the protagonists of the novel if it meant saving your loved ones from death.
Ishiguro does not limit these somewhat selfish traits to the human beings who live outside of Hailsham, however. They are present even in the protagonists we grow to love throughout the novel. This ultimately makes it even harder for readers to distinguish themselves from the so-called ‘donors’. They suffer from much the same misconceptions, and have the same ambitions, as we do.
As I read on, I came to realise that although Ishiguro places his story in a dystopian universe, the novel could in fact be a depiction of our present. Although there are no clones roaming amongst us, people still seem to alienate whole groups of people despite our essential same-ness. Our estrangement of others is a result of several everyday issues like racial differences or perhaps even sexual preferences. In this view, the novel becomes a highly powerful comment on social estrangement and that makes it even more pertinent to our time. It focuses on how people who are essentially made of the same genetic material are estranged and treated like objects, for some absurd reason or other.
The novel presents a heart-breaking view of humanity, and it can at times become too uncomfortable because of this unflinching depiction of human nature. I highly recommend this novel and I honestly believe that it is worth the read.
As the protagonists of the novel say throughout about art, that it “reveals your soul”… so does this novel reveal the soul of the society we live in. It is exactly this aspect of the novel which makes it one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.