As a child, Kathy – now thirty-one years old – lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.
And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed – even comforted – by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.
Ishiguro is a stylistic genius. This novel is written almost in stream of consciousness and jumps all around between past, present, and future. And yet, it all seems to make perfect sense. And his writing is poetic and lyrical and beautiful.
Kathy narrates the novel in first person and details her time spent at Hailsham with Ruth and Tommy and how they’re destined to finish their lives as donors for people in the ‘real world’. Ishiguro weaves past and present together seamlessly, and manages to break up sections of each chapter so that you know where the story is headed. Although some believe that the story moves a little slowly, this novel is meant to be character-driven and not plot-driven. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are all deeply-imagined characters that have been fleshed out and presented as three-dimensional protagonists.
Since I consider this novel to be a classic, I’d recommend it to anyone who reads and loves classics. I’d also recommend it to those people who are looking for something that’s ‘easy to read’ (I don’t really know how to define something like that). This conversationalist style of writing that Ishiguro has employed definitely proves easy to read and easy to follow.
My Score: 9/10