Yes, this was on the Booker shortlist. It didn’t win but Ishiguro is a past winner for The Remains of the Day. And this one won the Booker-Idol award, which is not really what it’s called but people got to vote online for their faves. Not having read any of the other contenders and having only just finished this one, I am not qualified to pass judgment. But I shan’t let that stop me.
This book is slightly cold and very spare, given its emotional-minefield subject matter, which is not a bad thing per se. It’s like a Hitchcock movie, all taut and restrained, but maybe (oh, it pains me to say it) ever-so-slightly boring for those among us who are less auteur and more amateur.
That said, it’s a page turner. And the whole premise, which is hinted at from the beginning, so I’m not really ruining anything, is tres creepy in a compelling sort of way. They’re these kids who live at this bucolic boarding school type place in the English countryside and don’t have any firsthand experience of the outside world. But lo! They’re really being bred as organ donors for people living in the read world, and you get the sense that we’re in some abstract future. And where it gets extra-crunchy is when we learn that they donate several times over until they “complete,” i.e., die.
It’s a fascinating premise, but the book is really about the relationships among them and their views on their roles in the world, and here’s where it falls short. Ruth and Tommy are in love. No, wait, it’s actually Tommy and Kathy! The switcheroo seems unlikely given the clinical detachment with which the story is told. But who knows? The challenge here was to make us believe in them accepting their fates and to make us believe in their attachment to each other, and this is where I have to say that maybe this book needs to get voted off the island.