Monday, April 11, 2011

LGBT Book Review: Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Another submission for the LGBT book review challenge.  Here we go.

Golly gosh, crumbs, wowsers, by heck, this was good.  It broke my heart several times over.

Has anyone seen the film?  I ain’t (cos I’m a bibliophile and nothing beats a decent book) but I’ve heard decent things about it, so I picked it up (well, downloaded it anyway, onto mah kindle).

It’s set in an alternative 90s where clones are grown/reared in specialist institutions to provide vital organs for their ‘models’ when said models get cancer or other horrific and otherwise incurable diseases.  It’s told from the point of the view of a particular group of cloned humans, but, and this is the interesting bit, the clones are fully aware of what they are and what their destinies are.  But, because they’ve been treated in such a humane manner, it never occurs to them that some people could see them as sub human.  They regard themselves as fully human, with souls and with every right to exist, all the time whilst accepting their destinies.

This group of clones (or students as they are referred to within the book) live at Hailsham, an idyllic and peaceful residential school ion the English countryside.  They are taught maths/art/English/science and all those other lessons every other kid does.  The students have no contact with the outside world and this is made clear and reinforced when it is mentioned they are being taught about (what we think of as) everyday things like the police, road crossings, taxes etc.

As we proceed throughout the book we see hints that some teachers are revulsed by the students, who do notice this attitude but are bemused as to why this is so.  They are raised to have self worth, and any emotional issues or confidence problems are linked to personality differences and the group dynamics of the students.  The cloning thing is only brought to light and really dealt with at the end of the book, which is also where we discover the history of England and how it came to be using clones (as well as some suggestions as to the horror that other clones endure growing up).

The students are all sterile and unable to bear children, although there seems to be no taboo on sexual activity.  Nevertheless, the students do not all engage in sex from an early age.  No, most of them have sex when they feel ready and on the whole have healthy relationships. 

There’s a small reference to being gay, but it’s brushed aside really quickly and I can’t understand why the author even included it.  I guess he thought it would be inclusive, but it’s just a small paragraph explaining that while there may be gay boys at the school gay relationships aren’t established as the kids get bullied for it.  That’s it.  There’s no mentions of lesbians or of bisexuality.

It’s bizarre because the book is quite clear that the teachers have no problem with the students having sex (so long as it’s safe and consensual), and with no contact with the outside world I don’t know where they’d get the idea that being gay is wrong.  Homophobia is not innate, it is learned, so where would the students learn this from?  To be honest, that paragraph reads like the author had to invent a reason not to deal with gay relationships.  If that’s true, that’s a rubbish cop out thing to do.

Ignoring this one problem, I really loved this book and would urge people to try it out.  Especially as it’s available as an e book!  I read it on my kindle (which I am still loving, thank you very much!).

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