read by Kerry Fox
Kazuo Ishiguro’s reflection on morality and mortality makes for an unsettling listen. Set in a post-war 1990s, this is a world that might have been, might still be or might even be now, where human clones live out limited, regulated lives with the understanding that their body parts will be called on some time in the future to repair the ‘normal’ humans they replicate.
At Hailsham, the boarding school where the protagonists meet, there is a painful emotional barrier between the staff and students, temporarily lifted by Miss Lucy, who reveals the destinies of all the students in the school. She is dismissed for her outspokenness. And this coldness suffuses the book, only sometimes temporarily lifted by doomed romance but typified by Kathy’s soulless exploration of her sexuality.
What makes the novel so disquieting is that the principal characters, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy seem to accept their destinies, to conform to their fates instead of trying to escape, instead of making a loud, discomforting protest, raging against the machine. The donors are fixed in their fates, somehow programmed to live out their predestined lives. Their small contact with the outside world is limited and regulated, and we learn little of the lives of the ‘normals’, except that it is trivial and worthless.
Kerry Fox’s deftness of touch is profound, and gives this disturbing reflection on the modern human condition both pathos and weight.
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