Monday, November 8, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

All children should believe they are special. But the students of Hailsham, an elite school in the English countryside, are so special that visitors shun them, and only by rumor and the occasional fleeting remark by a teacher do they discover their unconventional origins and strange destiny. Kazuo Ishiguro's sixth novel, Never Let Me Go, is a masterpiece of indirection. Like the students of Hailsham, readers are "told but not told" what is going on and should be allowed to discover the secrets of Hailsham and the truth about these children on their own.
Offsetting the bizarreness of these revelations is the placid, measured voice of the narrator, Kathy H., a 31-year-old Hailsham alumna who, at the close of the 1990s, is consciously ending one phase of her life and beginning another. She is in a reflective mood, and recounts not only her childhood memories, but her quest in adulthood to find out more about Hailsham and the idealistic women who ran it. Although often poignant, Kathy's matter-of-fact narration blunts the sharper emotional effects you might expect in a novel that deals with illness, self-sacrifice, and the severe restriction of personal freedoms. As in Ishiguro's best-known work, The Remains of the Day, only after closing the book do you absorb the magnitude of what his characters endure. --Regina Marler

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In today's economy, customers buying books need to know exactly what they're buying. In this case, what your thirty bucks buys is -- apart from the previously published text (the novel itself) and the previously published art (interior art) -- is, essentially, a new cover by longtime Harry Potter cover artist Mary GrandPre, and a black-and-white illustration by Rowling (quite the cartoonist!), which comprises the "bonus" material Scholastic has been touting but keeping under wraps.

The wraps are off and, while the illustration is nice, Scholastic would be better off issuing either an illustration edition with more art (which, by the way, exists), or taking the momentous occasion of the 10th anniversary to celebrate it in a significant fashion: Rowling, why wasn't there an original interview in which you looked back at the ten years of Harry Potter in the media? Why wasn't there a long essay by a respected literary critic looking at the Harry Potter phenomenon? Why wasn't there MORE text?

If this was simply a reprint edition, the omission of new text would be understandable. But when you're celebrating ten years of Harry Potter in print, how, exactly, does a new cover, a previously published (to the best of my knowledge) illustration for the colored endpapers, and a black-and-white illustration by Rowling "celebrate" the book's publication?

As there is no historical retrospective here, I'd have to say that Scholastic missed the boat: This edition could have been so much more, but it suffers (ironically) from a failure of imagination.

I have rated it five stars because the first novel is a literary classic in the children's field. The publisher, however, needs to think about how to ADD VALUE to the existing edition when touting its "anniversary" status, esp. if they intend on reissuing matching volumes in the future. Otherwise, it comes off as being just another edition to get the fans' hard-earned money, instead of offering something new, different, and significantly improved.