I’ll post my final thought Monday night. Till then, what’d you think?
I finished reading it on Friday, 22 June.
I liked the story towards the end more and more. It became more interesting. I admit having found it really boring at the beginning. (But I’ve already told you about that…)
At the end one is left wondering whether we, the readoers are belong to any of the categories mentioned in the book – or are there no more experiences like this?
Someone mentioned that the purpose of seeking ‘creativity’ in ‘students’ was to prove the presence of soul – s/he was right about that 🙂 congratulations to that person!
I finished reading the book shortly after our Part I discussion.
Not to get too revisionist, but I can say that I rather
disliked having to write up part I before having finished the book and
probably would have felt the same way if I marked up the novel with
notes. The questions that I asked were really immaterial and I wish I
hadn’t asked them. Now there’s empirical evidence that I arguably
approached this book from the wrong angle. Having finished the book,
and being able to digest it as a whole, makes me feel a lot more
comfortable with my assertions.
Anyway, I will divvy this up slightly, because the parts do exist for
a reason, as various markers in Kathy’s life. Really, we do the same
thing. Phrases we used every day like “Back in (high
school/college/when I worked at X/lived in Y)” are effectively the
same thing really. I think its kind of natural to want to delineate
our lives into various chapters.
Things that happened in Part II that were worth noting.
a> Ruth’s “possible”
b> Introduction to the idea of “deferrals”
c> Kathy’s alienation
To me, Ruth’s possible was the most poignant of these elements.
Granted, her office worker fantasy was just a continuation of her
extensive lies and self-delusion, which as I stated before, made her a
rather unlikable character. However, the search for the possible, when
she loses it at the end and says something to the effect of “Our
models are whores and junkies. If we want to find them look in the
gutter” struck me.
It was the first time that these kids showed actual despair at their
origins and by proxy, their fates. As important as that may be, I was rather
insulted at Ruth’s short-sightedness. Having personally known “whores
and junkies” who have managed to survive a self-destructive youth and
succeed, Ruth’s implication that once a vagrant, always a vagrant
really hit home. In her mind, there is no hope for the dregs of
However, this is worth contrasting with Ruth’s own existence. Although
Hailsham was a privileged upbringing, Rush is none-the-less a second
class citizen herself, and unlike the whores and junkies that were
their models, these “students” are indeed forever trapped with no hope
of a better life.
Except for the deferrals, a sick rumor or lie, much like the lies Ruth
had always dreamed of. From the instant this was introduced I felt
both repulsion and sympathy for those who sought solace in this grand
delusion. Grow up, kids.
Also, it’s worth noting that they’re asking for “deferrals,” not
“pardons.” They just want to delay the inevitable, not avoid it all
together. This is worth noting because, while these kids are bred to
die, in the end we’re all bred to die, and we cannot ask for anything but
a deferral. Really, the only thing we have on these kids is a longer
lifespan, that is all. This actually reduces my sympathy for them.
That said, I am childless, and the kids were sterile, and procreation
has often been associated with a kind of immortality.
Side note: I also thought perhaps the model/possible thing might be a
bit of a metaphor for adoption and biological parents.
Of course, at the end, Ruth being the Machiavellian bitch that she is,
slides a wedge between Kathy and Tommy. Kathy storms off (something
she seems prone to do) and leaves The Cottages. A little rash, but I
was glad to see her break ties with Ruth and Tommy and that
That said, Tommy doesn’t deserve as much ire as Ruth. In fact, the
whole finding the tape on Norfolk island was a very laudable thing.
Important things to note about part III:
a> Tommy and Ruth’s deaths.
b> The Gallery reveal.
c> The conversation between Madame and Kathy.
The first important thing I felt that happened in Part II
is Chrissy’s “completion” after her second donation. It
was her who pushed the “deferral” thing to start with, and she died
young. Later, the same happens with Ruth. Both of them wanted to live
more than anything in The Cottages, but they both start donating early
and die early in the process. Perhaps a quick and early death is how
they dealt with their despair. Not so much suicide via donation, more
a lack of a will to live, a desire to just get it over with.
Or maybe it was just subtle irony.
Later, I was disgusted with Ruth during her apology to Kathy and
Tommy, for bringing up the damned childish dream of a deferral to both
of them. With Madame’s address, she manages to rope Kathy and Tommy
into this sick delusion. Ruth shows the least progression of any of the
character, manipulating everyone even to her death.
The death’s of Ruth and Tommy are worth contrasting. Ruth selfishly
has Kathy stay with her to the end and watch her die. Tommy
spares her. While initially violent, he has seemed to undergone a bit
of a transition, becoming more compassionate, first with the Norfolk
tape and now with letting Kathy go. As far as character growth goes,
Ruth showed little, even if she did break down in the car. Kathy
showed a lot, primarily as she moved on from Ruth’s oppressive
friendship after The Cottages. I am, as I said before, a little
disappointed in all of them for buying into the deferral thing.
Although I wonder if Ruth ever did really believe. If it wasn’t
just a tool she used to manipulate people.
The Gallery reveal is worth noting for the fact that it was completely
anticlimactic. This is what science fiction should be. No big twists,
no glaring irony. It should use a simple premise (clones bred for
organ donations) to explore the human condition. I’m glad this didn’t
turn out like Ender’s Game. I can certainly understand also why it was
marketed as mainstream fiction.
The last could of chapters after the reveal were the only fully
depressing chapters in the book. The anguish of getting your hopes so
high on such an improbable dream, but to be brought back down to the
reality of your impending death, well, that makes me glad I’m a
pessimist. None-the-less, it was very heart wrenching.
What I took mostly out of the Gallery reveal was the disconnect
between how Madame viewed Kathy when she was dancing to “Never Let Me
Go” and how Kathy perceived the situation. This event was very important
to both of them, and changed both of their lives, but they walked away
with completely different assessments. To me, this “disconnect” is the great
tragedy of human existence.
Chuck P.’s last book Rant, while not all that good, had one line that
stood out as really summing up a lot of how I feel about the world,
which is that “you’re a different person to everyone you meet.” The
song Pepper contains the line “You’ll never know how you look
through other people’s eyes.”
There is no shared experience, between any two people. There’s
something utterly dark and sad about the solitude of our own minds
and the hells of epistemology and solipsism. I thought the conversation
between Madame and Kathy perfectly presented that isolation, alienation even,
we all suffer.
Anyway, good book. I’m glad I read it.
Wow, nice stuff, Tank. I’ll respond more fully when I’m not braindead.
For me, ultimately I just felt really sad. The fatalism and hopelessness and the sheer loneliness left me feeling bleak.
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