It just so happens that I read a couple of books on vacation that I would categorize as that heightened, coming-of-age, hormonal soup called YA – or Young Adult Fiction. Pity they didn’t have this category when I was that age, unless maybe “Little Women” qualifies? One book I picked up in the overstocked bookshelves of our villa was, “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro. He wrote “Remains of the Day” and the jacket said he was a Booker finalist, so I thought, “Why not?”
The other was “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. This one I found in a French bookstore, and I really should have known it was YA, by the author and the large print, but it was just something for the plane and I figured, “Pourqoui pas?” Also, it was in English.
Ishiguro went big on description, but he hooked me right away. Granted there were no vampires, no Katniss archery-action scenes, in fact, the plot just sauntered along, from the perspective of Kathy, a “Carer,” about to retire from her job. Slowly we learn she’s maybe 30 years old and she’s been doing this Caring business for as long as anybody can remember, 12 years! Her memory is the meat of the story; her two best friends and their time spent at an exclusive boarding school in England.
Spoiler alert, they are all clones! If you love English drama, subterfuge, and mystery, you will love this book.
Ishiguro does not write like a realist. He writes like someone impersonating a realist, and this is one reason for the peculiar fascination of his books. He is actually a fabulist and an ironist, and the writers he most resembles, under the genteel mask, are Kafka and Beckett. This is why the prose is always slightly overspecific. It’s realism from an instruction manual: literal, thorough, determined to leave nothing out. But it has a vaguely irreal effect. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/03/28/something-about-kathy
Bit by bit we finally learn why his characters seem so rigid, so overburdened with angst. Can they be truly human, whatever that means. The author wonders if they have souls. I came away thinking, holy crap, I wonder if this could really happen? Because that’s what great dystopian, sci-fi fiction will do, take us just a few steps into the future. You know if they can clone a sheep, and your pet dog, we humans aren’t far behind.
Lois Lowry’s 1993 book has been made into a movie, so some of you may be more aware of “The Giver.” In this novella the 12 year old protagonist is about to be assigned his life’s work. I thought about French children taking their BAC exams at age 16 or 17, and then being herded into the appropriate training college. Lowry pulls you in by the idyllic family life which seems fine, until you learn what his father actually does as a “Nurturer” and what Jonas’ job will be, the receptacle of the world’s memories. This community, that functions without color, or emotion, needs a scapegoat to remember the past. Rebellious pre-teens of today may find the action short but the overall mood of this little gem is compelling.
It’s always good to learn when everyone is the same, we are all lost. And this morning comes the news that a British author in the fantasy genre has died. ” I can’t imagine a 13-year-old alive who wouldn’t be changed a bit, for the better, by reading Terry Pratchett,” said Caitlin Moran on her Twitter feed. Sir Terry, who looked like a character from Hogwarts, succumbed to Alzheimer’s at the young age of 66. Best known for his Discworld series, he used satire to point out paradox in the adult world and published 70 novels.
“His death was announced on his Twitter account, on Thursday afternoon. The first tweet was composed in capital letters – which was how the author portrayed the character of Death in his novels.” http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-31858156
“AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER,” it stated.