Thursday, 4 April 2013

Book Club: 'Never Let Me Go'

It was our 2nd meeting of the book club today and we were looking at Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I really enjoyed reading this book, it was quite meandering and gentle in style, but every now and then you would see flashes of detail that built up into an underlying tension. As the protagonist reveals more and more details you start to see that there is something really strange about the situation that is described and eventually it had a big impact precisely because of the ordinary style that it is written in. You get a real glimpse into the details of the characters lives and their thoughts and feelings and you begin to build up a relationship  - when the full situation is revealed you feel the full force of the moral question that is being asked. It got me to think about the way that I treat people that I consider to be 'other', how are they envisaged? what does it mean to be human? what does art show us about who we are? if people can think and feel, are they the same as us no matter where they came from? It was incredibly thought provoking, all the more so given that it is a slow paced book essentially about someone reminiscing about their past. It also brings up themes of friendship, love, rejection, loyalty and hope. This was such a beautiful way to explore human nature and although there is a great deal of sadness in the book, I was actually hopeful by the end - we are not in this mess (yet!) and we have the capacity to think about the impact of how we treat people now, before technology gets that far ahead of itself. I came away with a feeling that I need to think really carefully about the example I put out in the world, the voice that I use, who I consider to be people - we are powerful, how we treat people has an impact.

We discussed the book and ate carrot cake and then got round to watching the film version. It was beautifully shot (and I have to admit I was partial to some of those 60s dresses....) and the locations were stunning. From my side, it seemed like the film focused much more on the love triangle between some of the major characters while leaving out a great deal of the moral conundrum. I felt like the dialogue was a little heavy handed, while I appreciate that some things need to be spelled out in films, a lot of the writing felt stilted and overblown. While in the book I saw the stories of love and friendship as a vehicle to highlighting the humanity of the main characters, the film seemed to leave out a lot of the complexity and a lot of the nuance which felt somewhat reductionist. I really liked Carey Mulligan's portrayal of Kathy, and Andrew Garfield had definite charm. The film was well done, but I didn't come away with the same feeling or the same essence as the book.

Coming up next month: Surfacing by Margaret Atwood

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