letting go of preconceptions

It feels like it’s been a long time between posts. I did post last week, and I’m still in time for this week’s post, but it got to the stage where I was starting to worry that maybe I’d accidentally forgotten a week…

Well, anyway, apart from being ridiculously busy at work (I think I did 40 hours over four days), I’ve been busy trying to finish ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro. I did actually finish reading it this afternoon, but I’m having a bit of trouble making up my mind about what I think of it.

NLMG, to me, seems to be a pretty short book (only 282 pages, and reasonably large font size) so I had expected to finish reading it pretty quickly (kind of like with ‘The Book of Tomorrow’, which I read earlier in the year). I can’t remember exactly, but I probably would have started reading it around mid-March. Maybe it started at a disadvantage because I’d just finished reading ‘The Hotel New Hampshire’. Actually, I remember taking my copy of NLMG to/from work and to lunch, but taking several days to actually get started on it because, although I’d been really keen to read it ever since I bought it in January, once it actually reached the front of the line, I didn’t want to rush into it.

Maybe I just wanted to allow adequate time between THNH and my next novel. (Usually I read a bit of ‘Great Expectations’ in between books – I find it helps the transition i.e. getting over book hangovers – but my copy of ‘Great Expectations’ was still on loan to a friend.) Maybe I just wanted a bit of a rest from reading in general (I’m quietly afraid of becoming short-sighted).

Now, this may seem a bit silly to some people, but another disadvantage NLMG faced resulted from the cover of the book. I’ve already written a post about the dilemma of buying the movie tie-in edition, but the problem goes beyond that. On one of the first occasions that I took the book to lunch at work, people naturally noticed that I was reading something new, and asked to see what it was. I was having lunch with quite a few people that day (good synchronising of lunchtimes), and most of them had seen the movie and thought it was, well, terrible.

I didn’t want this to deter me, as generally movies don’t live up to the books they’re based on, and I really want to say that it didn’t affect how I read it (I honestly didn’t know it was also a movie until I saw that cover), but, really, I can’t be sure. They also kind of spoiled the story a bit by talking about the donations (I still hadn’t started reading it at this stage). Again, I was hoping this still wouldn’t affect my reading experience (I knew Dumbledore would die in HP6 but still loved it), but I feel that, because of the way it’s written, it would have had a greater impact if I’d known nothing about it at the start.

Overall, NLMG didn’t capture and pull me in as well as I was expecting. The story kind of progressed a bit slowly, and I didn’t really sympathise with any of the characters. I checked out some reviews on Goodreads just now, and it seems like a lot of people thought that the first half or so was pretty slow. One person pointed out that nothing really gets explained until the last 30 pages.

I also wasn’t overly taken by the writing style – particularly the segues between sections, which felt a bit repetitive sometimes. It tended to be something like “I thought that was the worst of it, but then there was this incident” or “Before I tell you about this, I should elaborate on this other thing”. I’m probably oversimplifying, and maybe this is nit-picking, but it was just something I noticed.

The concept behind the book, however, I thought was great. It is thought-provoking, and kind of makes me wonder if this could realistically happen, provided you could get past the ethics, etc. (I can’t imagine that cloning would ever lose the controversy and become widely accepted.) And then there’s the question of whether clones would be like mindless zombies or if they’d think and feel and want things for themselves. You could end up with a clone uprising.

I liked NLMG a lot more towards the end. I think I should hide it away somewhere for 20-30 years, forget everything that happens in it, and then read it again anew.

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