Hello fellow readers!!! Do you love to think deeply about the books you read? I have a spent a few days, putting this discussion post together to do just that. I took a look at some of the author interviews, reviews from different news sources, and used the Study Guide for Book Clubs: Klara and the Sun by Kathryn Cope to pull this post together. While I love and often think I am talking to my shelf when I delve deeper into the books I read, I would love for you to join in the comments below. Or give me a thumbs up, or a like if I am not talking to just to my shelf or you thought this was a good idea and was helpful to think deeper about the book.
Caution, Spoilers below
Question 1: What did you think of the story narrated by Artificial friend Klara? Did you find Klara a likeable narrator? Were you able to connect with her, or did you find it hard to?
Brenda: I found Klara a likable narrator, and I loved the depth of her emotional intelligence that mirrored and was used as a metaphor for the perfect parent/human. We see some human emotional truths that are a little uncomfortable to admit, and I loved how through Klara, she gave me some insight on how we connect with others.
I liked what Ishiguro had to say about Klara being artificial, and that gave me a bit to think about how we relate to characters that I hadn’t thought about before.
“It shouldn’t be that surprising, really, though, that an artificial creature could actually solicit our sympathies as much as a human one. Because after all, characters in books are artificial. We’re making that kind of leap anyway. When we read books and you get weepy over the fate of some character, we’re not weeping over a real person. We’ve put ourselves into some kind of space where we’re relating to created beings. At some level, we’re responding metaphorically because we think that it impinges, in some metaphorical relationship to our real lives, I suppose. I never thought it was going to actually be an intrinsic problem in terms of how my readers would feel because my main character was artificial” ~ Ishiguro taken from an interview
What do you think of Ishiguro comment above?
Question 2: There are a few themes explored through the eyes of Klara. Themes of loneliness, class/discrimination, parenting, and different forms of love. Which one stood out the most for you, and did you understand something different about human behavior through Klara?
Brenda: Themes of parenting stood out the most, seeing Klara as a perfect parent metaphor. I thought differently about how what we feel is best for our children might not be. Our hopes, dreams, needs, wants, and feelings can cloud what is best for our children. Klara’s hope, feelings and wants for Josie are not complicated by her own. Also, the idea of how society treats people as being replaceable.
Question 3: Think about the themes of Class/Discrimination ~ the haves and have nots are examined here between the lifted Josie and non-lifted Rick. Genetic editing has become the norm for the privileged. The advantages are significant enough that parents are willing to put their children at risk to ensure their children have the advantages and benefits from being lifted. In a world where technology replaces human jobs, these advantages become more critical. Through Rick, we see him pitied and shamed by other children. Chrissie and Helen both carry quilt over their decision to have their children lifted. Chrissie is less honest with herself with her regret, while Helen is haunted by the consequences of Rick’s lifted status. Themes of guilt, regret and sacrifices are explored. Were you able to put yourself in the mother’s shoes and wonder what you would do? Did the way you felt about Chrissie change as you saw how Rick was treated and how that put him at a disadvantage in getting into college? Did you feel sympathy for Chrissie?
Brenda: I felt differently for Chrissie as I understood Helen’s feelings and guilt when seeing how Rick is treated and at a disadvantage. It can also be painful for a parent to see their child struggle to fit in, be happy, and succeed. It was easier to put myself in Helen’s shoes, and it also made it easier to put myself in Chrissie’s shoes and see why she would want her children to have those advantages. I could relate to both mothers with their endless guilt for their children, but I couldn’t find the sympathy I wanted to feel for Chrissie even though I understood why she would make the choices she did.
Question 3: AFs are created solely to be companions of children. They can be disposable, substituted, and replaced. There are parallels here as to how humans treat each other. Friends/companions will often move on when they no longer need each other. Josie’s attachment to Klara shows how fragile human affection can be and how humans can exploit others for their own needs. Klara is also treated as a threat for taking jobs away or like a household appliance. She receives little respect or thanks. What takeaways did you pick up on what this says about humanity’s capacity for empathy and gratitude?
Brenda: My biggest takeaway from this is we don’t live in this world alone, we share it with others. This speaks strongly to the idea we live in a selfish/throwaway society, and it has become harder to empathize with or appreciate others. I think accepting that as an emotional truth makes it easier to understand humans better.
Question 4: Klara is programmed to learn human emotions, we see that she is able to process some the positive emotions. In many ways she can be seen as a selfless human. She could be argued she is an improved version of a human. Does this strike you as more or less human? Do you think Klara had feelings? Or do you think that we, as readers, imposed feelings on her throughout the story based on her actions? In that sense, discuss the fine line between action and feeling.
Brenda: I don’t think Klara did have feelings, but because she could process positive emotions, her actions were based on that and not her feelings. I am not sure there is a fine line between actions and feelings. Just feeling something is not enough it’s what we do with those feelings through our actions that define us. With the idea that humans are not designed to love unselfishly because it’s hard to put aside our own feelings, Klara could be an improved version of a human. When we see Klara’s hopes for Josie, it’s not complicated by her feeling. However, being the perfect companion could have allowed Josie to become selfish. I think in the end, through her actions, it made Klara feel good she was a good companion, and that was all that mattered to her. I think it’s easy to forget that it feels good to do something selfless for others. I feel like we have become an artificial society with how we feel, care, treat and need other people.
I think as a reader I did impose feeling on her not only based on her actions but also because I wanted to see her as a selfless being and take inspiration from that. I think as humans because we can live in an artificial society we can be incapable of being selfless through our actions but I think we do feel for others and maybe see that as a weakness when really that is a strength.
Question 5: How does loneliness drive the behaviour of the characters?
Brenda: I think Klara sums it up when she says, “They fear loneliness, and that is why they behave as they do”. While reading Men and Mice, I picked something up for it about loneliness that I think we saw here with how the children treated Rick. When people feel helpless with loneliness, they can dehumanize those they think are weaker than they are.
Fearing being alone the mother is unable to accept losing Josie. She is focused on her grief and pain is only capable of protecting herself. She has given up on Josie surviving.
Question 6: Ishiguro ponders some human and emotional questions about the mother wanting to have Josies’ personality captured and re-created algothnnically. How did you feel about the mother wanting to do this? This opens up questions like what is this loss, and what can we do to protect ourselves from the pain? What makes an individual unique, how irreplaceable is any human, and what does that person mean to you?
Brenda: At first, the thought of being able to recreate someone artificially scared me, and I didn’t want to think about it, but then I started thinking about how desperate the mother must be to want to do that. I think that showed us how her desperation clouded how realistic that would be because of what Josie really means to her. I think it could never replace the loss of the actual child, and she was fooling herself into thinking it would. I think if we could replace people artificially, it would be in our version of the perfect companion and not that of someone human.
I loved how this part of the storyline opened up those questions to pondered and I thought through Chrissie it gave us a good opportunity to think about them and evaluate how we look at any human’s life. With the idea we live in a throwaway society, have we come to see people as being replaceable. Is a neighbours life or one lost be easily forgotten or not important, if they don’t mean anything to you. I thought about what could Chrissie do to protect herself from the pain of losing Josie. Because I don’t an answer to it I found it hard to judge Chrissie. So it’s a good question to ponder.
Question 6: Ishiguro leaves out many details around the novel’s setting, Josie’s condition, and what it means to be ‘lifted’. How did this affect your reading of the book?
Brenda: I found that frustrating I didn’t understand more about Josie’s condition and what it meant. I would of liked this explained more in the story.
Question 7: The sun symbolizes life and hope. Klara sees the sun as a source of life and nourishment. She makes a deal with the sun and we see the hope she has for Josie. Why do you think that Klara believes that the Sun is the remedy for Josie’s illness? What do you think the Sun represented in the book?
Brenda: While I think you could draw some God like comparisons to the sun, I think the sun represented that hope we need when faced with the hardness of life. While I don’t think hope or faith is what brings us what we seek in hardship it’s gives us the strength we need.
Question 8: The author refers to this one as a cheerful, optimistic book. Do you agree?
Brenda: I thought it was a realistic, profound, and insightful look at the emotional truth that humanity is fundamentally selfish. It’s hard to be optimistic about that, but maybe there is hope for humanity
Question 9: What did you think about the ending of the book? Could you be happy knowing you served your purpose despite being discarded later or think about a time you might of had a role in treating someone like that?
Brenda: It’s not the way I wanted it to end and I wanted an ending where Josie saw how unselfish Klara was. However one of the takeaways I took from the ending was we can’t change people but we can take pleasure in how it feels to be selfless and accepting of people. So maybe that an optimistic view.
Question 10: What was the biggest takeaway you took from the story?
Brenda: The idea that humanity is fundamentally selfish and we can learn something from all the characters.
Thank you so much for reading my post and please join it, give me a thumbs up or like if you thought this post was helpful or a good idea for future posts.
Penny for your thoughts in the comments