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Old 10-19-2018, 10:16 AM   #46
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I accepted the drug as "real," too, if that means that I thought something was happening outside Dick's mind, but when do hallucinations leave off and perception begin? That the events Dick "saw" seemed to have taken place in fact? The story makes it explicit that physical time travel did not take place.

I have similar issues with irresolution. Along that spectrum lies the issues that some of us had with Never Let Me Go. But I revisited My Cousin Rachel this past summer and I thought the nebulousness of this worked better, if only because once you admit fantastic elements you allow for much. I found My Cousin Rachel to be a failure in regard to its open-endedness.
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Old 10-19-2018, 10:54 AM   #47
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Early on, Magnus makes mention of DNA - seeming to suggest, perhaps, that the drug allowed them to explore genetic memories. But if that were the case the only way they would see the same places and people is to have the same ancestors. And we might ask why the trips are sequential, since there would seem no reason why that should be. And now I've started, I want to ask what part location plays. It seemed as if Dick always "went" to a time when Roger was wherever it was Dick was when he took the drug, so if someone without ancestors in this location took the drug what would happen? Perhaps just the toxic effects without any memories?

It really doesn't bear thinking about ... and until we started talking about the book here I was doing a good job of not thinking about all that. This is one of the books that, I felt, worked well enough on a superficial level to keep me happy*, but it's not really one that stands up to scrutiny later. So in this case the irresolution does the book a disservice because it's better if you don't think about such details too much.

I didn't have that trouble with Never Let Me Go. I've not read My Cousin Rachel, so can't make the comparison; it's on our bookshelf, has been for years, but I've never gotten around to reading it.


* Happy-ish. I only gave it a 3/5. I liked it, but - as noted in my earlier post - more for the idea than the execution.
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Old 10-19-2018, 06:44 PM   #48
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I must be one of the only people who really enjoyed both this and Never Let Me Go.

I have read a number of du Maurier's other titles, so I suppose I expected all the unanswered questions and "irresolution." I find it amusing that there was so much vitriol in the Never Let Me go thread over it and here it is a mere point of discussion as the style of the author.
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Old 10-19-2018, 07:17 PM   #49
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Here, while she did leave a lot of questions unanswered, the questions aren't critical to the story. The setting in Never Let Me Go is close enough to our world that the leap he took is worse than the leap in House on the Strand which is obviously fantasy or hallucination and doesn't need to make sense in some ways.

Sort of an uncanny valley thing. Never Let Me Go is too close to our world in so many ways that the little differences and unanswered questions are magnified making it feel worse.
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Old 10-19-2018, 08:36 PM   #50
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I must be one of the only people who really enjoyed both this and Never Let Me Go.

I have read a number of du Maurier's other titles, so I suppose I expected all the unanswered questions and "irresolution." I find it amusing that there was so much vitriol in the Never Let Me go thread over it and here it is a mere point of discussion as the style of the author.
I’m with you, astrangerhere - I enjoyed both of them too. I think it can be a problem with pretty much any book when we thrash it to death looking at whether it is scientifically possible, or logical or whatever.

Rather than considering how the drug worked, I thought more about the nature of addiction to various things, and the damage this does to the individual and also to his or her family. At one point Dick said he
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craved the experience which had been denied me, and which I could have possessed had I taken a few drops from the flask safely locked away in the old laundry at Kilmarth.
. (Chapter 12.)

A little later on he worried over whether the drug was causing a sense of depression and foreboding. And his behaviour certainly had a bad effect on his family.
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Old 10-20-2018, 08:27 AM   #51
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I’m with you, astrangerhere - I enjoyed both of them too. I think it can be a problem with pretty much any book when we thrash it to death looking at whether it is scientifically possible, or logical or whatever.
Oh, I don't know. I disagree. I think "thrashing it to death" is an overstatement. I'm not going to alter my good opinion of a book because it meets with objections, unless it's an obvious flaw that I hadn't seen. I think discussions always increase my understanding of a book, for good or ill.

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Rather than considering how the drug worked, I thought more about the nature of addiction to various things, and the damage this does to the individual and also to his or her family.
I wasn't at all interested in how the drug worked and have to say that I thought du Maurier's reference to DNA was extremely unfortunate. It's obvious she had no understanding of it (and no reason why she should) and I think she just pulled it out because in the context of when she was writing the book it was a recent discovery, only 15 years earlier. So basically I'm agreeing with you about that!

For me, there's a chicken-and-egg aspect to Dick's addiction. Was he particularly prone to addiction because of his unhappiness with his life and his family or did his addictive tendencies exacerbate this? I though du Maurier altered the perspective of Vita in a telling manner. For most of the book we got Dick's view of her and it wasn't flattering. And yet, she reacted to Dick's violence against her with understanding and her subsequent actions to me showed her a reasonable and even compassionate woman (if still a little controlling). So we got the addict's view and then the family view and nicely done, too.
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Old 10-20-2018, 09:14 AM   #52
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You are right issybird - I expressed myself badly. I didn’t mean to imply that we had been doing this specifically with either Ishiguro or du Maurier.

Rather I meant that in general terms the fictional premise can be examined to the point that it is in danger of collapse because the author has intended us to suspend disbelief. The success of the book depends on whether we are prepared to go along with that need, rather than whether it can withstand a forensic examination or not.

For me, both books did succeed, but for others, obviously not.
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Old 10-20-2018, 09:37 AM   #53
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Sorry this is in bits - I’m in an area with a wobbly internet connection.

That is an interesting point about Vita’s reaction to the situation once she understood what was going on. I think she genuinely cared for Dick and wanted to make the marriage work. How she would react to his “escape” at the airport, and of course the potential long-term effects of his last trip to the past, is something on which we can only speculate. It would be a big ask to expect her to continue the relationship after that betrayal.
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Old 10-20-2018, 10:33 AM   #54
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Rather I meant that in general terms the fictional premise can be examined to the point that it is in danger of collapse because the author has intended us to suspend disbelief. The success of the book depends on whether we are prepared to go along with that need, rather than whether it can withstand a forensic examination or not.
This is why du Maurier worked for me and Ishiguro didn't. There is the fantasy element in du Maurier that says, "Just because," and that's good enough for me - which is why I wish she hadn't made that silly comment about DNA. Ishiguro, otoh, to me created a "real world" setting that invited scrutiny; it didn't come across as fable or fantasy to me. But clearly a MMV issue.
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Old 10-21-2018, 11:49 AM   #55
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This is why du Maurier worked for me and Ishiguro didn't. There is the fantasy element in du Maurier that says, "Just because," and that's good enough for me - which is why I wish she hadn't made that silly comment about DNA. Ishiguro, otoh, to me created a "real world" setting that invited scrutiny; it didn't come across as fable or fantasy to me. But clearly a MMV issue.
I think they both created real-world settings. But du Maurier contrasted the real world with an illusory alternative world, and we could understand the appeal and the protagonist's fascination with it. Ishiguro gave us a setting that focused on only one slice of a real world, and didn't contrast it with the real world of which it was a part.

Another way look at it, perhaps, is that in the du Maurier, without the hallucinogen/time travel element, there's no story. You have to suspend disbelief. In the Ishiguro, the cloning isn't integral; the story could have involved any triangle of doomed people. So everything that isn't explained about cloning is a huge distraction. At least to me.
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Old 10-21-2018, 08:32 PM   #56
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Du Maurier's real world is a real world with which we are familiar and has not been substantially affected by the drug. The wider setting requires no further explanation. Ishiguro sets his book in a "real" world substantially affected by his premise and then abandons that world in favour of a literary character study. It is not the lack of plausibility of the science so much as starting with a premise with enormous implications and then focusing narrowly on one minor aspect. For me, this didn't work, and I've tried to articulate why it didn't work for me and now why it didn't work for me whilst the Du Maurier did. I have no problems at all with the fact that some people loved Never Let Me Go.

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Old 10-21-2018, 08:49 PM   #57
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Yes, the story is the experience of the time travel, and I suppose that’s because we see everything from Dick’s point of view. He finds his own life unsatisfactory and so we do too. We share his addiction to the unfolding story, and are impatient to find out what happens next.

Du Maurier has left it to us to think about the ongoing effects of Dick’s actions and behaviour or not, as we choose. The ball would definitely in Vita’s court on whether their relationship had any sort of future or not.

ETA Sorry, this crossed with your post Darryl.

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Old 10-21-2018, 09:28 PM   #58
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Ishiguro sets his book in a "real" world substantially affected by his premise and then abandons that world in favour of a literary character study.
I think this is the absolutely the best single-sentence summary of what's wrong with the book.
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Old 10-22-2018, 06:36 AM   #59
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Thanks Catlady. I think this shows the benefits of this type of discussion. It became apparent only when contrasting the books and why my reaction to them was so different.

No problems with the crossed posts, Bookpossum. I am left with the impression that Dick's future may well be a bleak one, perhaps one of partial or total physical paralysis. As for his future with Vita, I really don't know. I doubt that he loves either her or the children, and I think his actions demonstrated that. On the other hand, i do think that Vita loved him. Whether that is enough for her to forgive his behaviour and stay with him? Particularly if he is physically paralysed through his own selfish actions? Du Maurier quite rightly leaves us to consider these issues. Or not.
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Old 10-22-2018, 11:45 AM   #60
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Rather I meant that in general terms the fictional premise can be examined to the point that it is in danger of collapse because the author has intended us to suspend disbelief. The success of the book depends on whether we are prepared to go along with that need, rather than whether it can withstand a forensic examination or not.
This is why I'm much happier at the Hey, presto! end of the spectrum. Or in other words, not only is the end, the AU, more important than the means, I'm really not interested in the means at all.

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How she would react to his “escape” at the airport, and of course the potential long-term effects of his last trip to the past, is something on which we can only speculate. It would be a big ask to expect her to continue the relationship after that betrayal.
That's how I feel about it, but of course it's whatever we care to project. As a trope, I do think open-ended can keep a book alive in your mind although some endings are more open than others and obviously some books demand more closure than others.
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