Everyone has heard of “love at first sight.” But what about “love at first read?” My pick for Friday Favorites this week is a book that's still new to me. It's the book I am currently in the middle of: Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Not having completed the book, it's hard to tell where I will end up in terms of my feelings for the book; but at this moment, it is fast becoming a favorite.
Initially my decision to read it was because the movie based on it is coming out this fall (see trailer below) and I have a slight crush on one of its stars, so I knew I would probably be seeing it. I like to read books before I see their film adaptations. At first, the narrator, Kathy, is incredibly clinical when she speaks of the strange boarding school, Hailsham, where she grew up: its emphasis on creativity, the mysterious “training” to become “carers” and “donors,” but never quite explaining in detail what this means. The assumption is that the reader knows; she keeps saying things like, “I don't know if it was the same in your school.” But as the story unfolds we learn of her bond with other students: most importantly, a boy named Tommy, at first ridiculed by his peers, and Ruth, Kathy's dearest friend.
Ruth is imaginative (when she and Kathy first begin playing together as children, it is Ruth that makes up games about invisible horses and secret guards and later, she seems to enjoy fibbing) but also a short fuse – when Kathy and Tommy try to comfort her at one point, she takes their remarks as insulting and explodes, sharing with them a bit of hurtful truth. Reading it, I get this feeling that what people like about Ruth is the moments where she is intimately inclusive: Kathy tells of nights where they sit up late, drinking tea and confiding their news of the day.
Tommy is Ruth's boyfriend, but it's clear by the way Kathy talks that she's had a crush on him herself. His attention to her shows that the feeling may be mutual.
At Hailsham, the students are supposed to create things – all sort of artwork, from sculptures to sketches to poems – and participate in “Exchanges,” where they exchange the things they have created for tokens that then buy them other students' work. An outsider, simply referred to as Madame, comes to the exchanges and selects especially nice work for something called The Gallery. No one ever sees this gallery, though. In the beginning, Tommy's problem is that he is not creative – or at least, not yet – and this leads to him being made fun of.
The book seems to be taking a turn towards tragedy – some foreboding scenes indicate this: Miss Lucy, one of their "guardians" or instuctors, gets upset about Hailsham and what it's not teaching its students and Madame cries when she witnesses Kathy slow-dancing to her favorite cassette, pressing an invisible body (Madame presumes a child or lover) to her chest. It's all very strange so far, but I love the almost sci-fi mystery of it. I also love how the three friends communicate and empathize with each other; their unspoken understandings are lovely, even if they do border on “love means never having to say you're sorry” territory. Kathy understands, without Ruth ever saying so, that Ruth is apologizing for a blow-up by the way Ruth treats Kathy with extreme kindness (she goes out of her way to explain the jokes she and her other friends are laughing over, etc.)
Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at http://risktoblossom.blogspot.com/.