As a child, Kathy–now thirty-one years old–lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.
And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed–even comforted–by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.
Yes, it’s true, I FINALLY read this book – the third time really is the charm! I’m going to try and avoid spoilers, so forgive me if this is vague.
First off, let me say that the concept was cool. It was the execution I was not so thrilled about.
I’ve read a few of Ishiguro’s other books (When We Were Orphans and The Remains of the Day) and he has a fairly distinct writing style. It’s almost a tell and not show, with a strange sort of detachment. If you’ve ever read or watched Remains (both of which I enjoyed), you’ll understand.
Anyway, so there’s the writing style which made me feel like I was just sorta looking in at Kathy H’s situation, but never really becoming part of her world. Which was okay, not a huge deal. But I found her lack of emotions a bit bizarre. Especially with the fact that (MAJOR SPOILER! redacted). My husband and I have known each other since we were teenagers and if we were in Kathy and Tommy’s situation, we would have fought a hell of a lot harder to remain together. But everyone seemed so passive aggressive and maybe that was my main problem with the book.
The movie actually did a better job of explaining the situation. That was a plus. So was the atmosphere – the music and cinematography had a definite moodiness to it, which I thought was warranted. The situation is creepy as hell. The book was so detached, I never really felt unsettled, even though I should have.
I liked the scenes when the three friends were kids. I thought those were well done, showing (and not telling!) the feelings Kathy and Tommy have for each other. But the older teen/adult parts were a bit meh to me. The complexities of Kathy and Ruth’s friendships didn’t convey and Tommy didn’t do much other than stand around, smiling like an idiot.
And since the movie ended the same way as the book, the plethora of passive aggressiveness opened up my rage cage again.
So it was like I said – the concept was interesting, but the story just never clicked for me.