Monday, September 19, 2011

CBR III Review #20 - Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

“The problem, as I see it, is that you've been told and not told. You've been told, but none of you really understand, and I dare say, some people are quite happy to leave it that way.” 

Alright, I've put off reviewing this long enough.  I finished this book maybe a week and a half ago and refuse to write this review.  It's not because it was bad - that I'd have been able to write about easily.  It's that it is just so very very...BLAH.  It's beige.  It's white bread.  There is no flavor, no heart to this book at all.  The foundations are good, but they've built some humorless cement block building on them so that you don't bother to remember it at all once you've left it.
I'm not going to really summarize this, because I genuinely didn't care enough to remember.  We are taken to a world where human clones are bred and raised to be organ donors.  That is their entire purpose in life.  They grow up, stay healthy, and give away organs until their bodies fail and they die.  The story itself follows three characters; our narrator, Kathy, and her friends Ruth and Tommy.  The love triangle business, the way their existence at all is addressed, the relationship with the teacher, Miss Lucy, who wants them to really understand who they are - all of this sounds like really great lit material.  But none of it is explored with any depth of feeling.  It's very cold, much like the donor facilities all three of our characters end up in.  This is a story that could have done so much to explore what life could be if cloning were to go in this kind of direction, and could have connected us to it on an emotionally resonant level that left a reader asking questions.  But at no point in reading this did I give one shit about any of these characters.  It's sad.  I really wanted more from this.  And because the premise is so solid, I can't write it off entirely as bad writing.  It is just entirely too cold to leave a lasting impression.

Honestly, I'd have to suggest skipping this one.  No idea if the movie is any good, but I don't plan on watching it to find out.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CBR III Review #19 - Born in Shame by Nora Roberts

The heart has to break a little to make room.

The last of the Irish Born trilogy!  This one focuses on Shannon Bodine, daughter of an affair that Thomas Concannon had with a woman named Amanda.  Shannon starts the story completely unaware of the circumstances of her birth.  The truth is that Amanda and Tommy were very much in love for three weeks in Ireland.  Amanda went back to America and found herself carrying Tommy's child.  However, due to his marriage and family, Amanda makes the choice to inform him of the child's existence and then disappear from his life, for the good of everyone.  She ends up marrying a lovely man during her pregnancy, and that is the man Shannon knows as her father.  The novel starts with Amanda's deathbed confession of these facts to Shannon, which coincides with the detective Rogan hired to find Amanda finally arriving at the Bodine home in Columbus, OH.  

Shannon has been living the high life in NYC, working as a commercial artist and working towards the goals she thinks she is supposed to aim for.  She has the good job, the perfect apartment, the reasonable boyfriend - and no passion in her life.  She decides, in her mourning, to travel to Ireland to meet the women who identify themselves as her sisters - Brianna and Maggie, both now married and each with a child at this point (btw, those Concannon women do NOT mess around! That was a really quick turn over from both husbands being strangers to becoming two families).  

This story, in addition to exploring the burgeoning relationship between the Concannon sisters, also serves to explore Shannon's passion for painting and her rather unique relationship with the surrogate brother and neighbor to the sisters, Murphy Muldoon.  Anyone who didn't see that coming from the start of Born in Fire clearly hasn't read enough Nora Roberts.  There was an element of their relationship, however, that I was unprepared for - the mysticism.  Shannon and Murphy are connected by lovers from the past, the Witch & the Warrior.  They both dream of these people, and therefore each other.  Murphy, in fact, tells Shannon almost upfront that he loves her and will marry her, because they are fated and he's been waiting for her all his life.

I'm torn on how I feel about this.  On the one hand, it feels unnatural with the realism of the rest of the trilogy (and Roberts work on the whole).  However, being of Irish heritage myself, I understand that perspective, of knowing you've been there before, or how the land there can make you believe in things you never thought you would.  On a trip with an Irish Lit class in college, our bus driver took us to see a fairy mound.  If you are unfamiliar with this, they are little mounds of dirt all over the countryside that are believed by many to be the homes of fairies - to approach or touch one is to bring bad luck upon yourself, as you have disturbed their home.  This is something, on American soil, I would have called bullshit.  But when the bus arrived, the driver refused to get out or park closer, telling us we were taking our chances on our own.  Our professor told us we were allowed to stay on the bus if we agreed with the driver, and inexplicably, I found myself still in my seat as most of the bus emptied.  Somehow, I believed enough to avoid it.

Still, while I can see where people might indulge in the belief, especially when it's wrapped in something as emotionally complex as love, it felt a little unnatural in the context of Roberts work.  As such, this book, like Born in Ice, didn't quite touch me the same way as Born In Fire.  It's still a series I will likely revisit, if for no other reason than my enjoyment of that part of Ireland and the way Roberts loving writes it.