This book was in the end probably the most frustrating and disappointing experience of my reading life. The book is very nearly a great book, but it is broken.
The book is told from the point of view of a clone that has been bred to provide parts in medical treatment. The central problem of the book is that while there is a tremendous amount of brilliant psychological detail and extraordinary insight, the problem of why the clones simply accept there fate without even trying to run away and why they actively cooperate in the process is never addressed.
That lack is so glaring that it undermines the rest of the book. Ishiguro wants us to take it as a given, but because the rest of the psychology of the book, which is where the focus lies, is so well done and so beautiful it just leaps out at you. You expect it to be addressed, but it never is.
Ishiguro could have addressed it by having the clones all be clones of extremely passive people, but at least one of the main characters, Ruth, is very manipulative and controlling, yet she goes passively to her own fate. Another thing is that they could have all been modified to accept it, but there is no hint of that and it would have forced Ishiguro to explore whether or not and to what extent they were still human and he does not want to do that. Or they could have been brainwashed. It is certainly possible to brainwash people to participate in their own destruction and there is brainwashing in the book, but it is not adequate to achieve that level of cooperation. Also it would have forced Ishiguro to explore the affects of that kind of brutal brainwashing and he doesn't want to do that either. Or they could have been no possibility of escape, but then he would have been forced to explore desperation and frustration probably suicidal thoughts and homicidal rage. Or he could have written a book that was not about psychological realism and was more about allegory or something like that. But he is interested in psychological realism.
As a result he gives us the least rebellious group of children, teenagers, and twenty year-olds with the greatest reason to rebel and asks us to swallow it while at the same time doing these precise and beautiful and moving explorations of their character, interactions and psychology.
The book is so good in so many ways, but he does it by cheating.
Cheater! Cheater! Cheater! Why? Why? Why?
This could have been one of the best books ever written. It is so good and so clever. The little animals! Oh so clever! Kathy's voice: brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. But Ruth would have done anything to live.
Why? Why? Why?
There is a lot of negativity so far in this review and I have to say that where it does explore themes that Ishiguro is interested in such as acceptance of your fate, the dehumanization of people, love, social interaction, alienation and so on it is brilliant. That's why I am so unbelievably frustrated by it.
The most frustrating experience in reading ever and the biggest missed opportunity ever. You can not give a picture of a character where have of it is finely detailed and intricate and the other half is ignored. You have to follow the logic of your book.
It's beautiful though.