Chapters 5-9

In Ishiguro's chilling dystopian novel, three students at a secluded boarding school learn the truth about their identities and their futures.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. loom
    hang over, as of something threatening, dark, or menacing
    When it got bad, it was like they cast a shadow over the whole of Hailsham; all you had to do was turn your head or move towards a window and there they’d be, looming in the distance.
  2. pine
    have a desire for something or someone who is not present
    But her ghost was always wandering about the woods, gazing over Hailsham, pining to be let back in.
  3. confer
    have a meeting in order to talk something over
    After a while Miss Geraldine said goodbye and went off towards the Orangery, but we kept on watching, and saw Miss Eileen and Mr. Roger put their heads closer together to confer furtively, their gazes fixed on Miss Geraldine’s receding figure.
  4. furtively
    in a secretive manner
    After a while Miss Geraldine said goodbye and went off towards the Orangery, but we kept on watching, and saw Miss Eileen and Mr. Roger put their heads closer together to confer furtively, their gazes fixed on Miss Geraldine’s receding figure.
  5. precarious
    not secure; beset with difficulties
    And yet, all the time, I think we must have had an idea of how precarious the foundations of our fantasy were, because we always avoided any confrontation.
  6. allude
    make an indirect reference to
    If she decided someone should be expelled, for example, and she sensed opposition, she’d just allude darkly to stuff she knew “from before.”
  7. ornate
    marked by complexity and richness of detail
    This had all helped get me fascinated, and I was soon longing to become engrossed myself in those ornate pieces.
  8. snub
    a refusal to recognize someone you know
    Then about two days after this snub in Room 20, I was coming down the stairs of the main house when I found Moira B. just behind me.
  9. acute
    extremely sharp or intense
    For the next few seconds I felt something like acute embarrassment that the two of us should now be standing side by side, linked by our recent humiliations, actually staring our rejection in the face, as it were.
  10. innocuous
    lacking intent or capacity to injure
    This might sound a pretty innocuous sort of response, but actually it was like she’d suddenly got up and hit me, and for the next few moments I felt hot and chilly at the same time.
  11. explicitly
    in a clearly expressed manner
    It was always stuff like that, and never explicitly claimed, just implied by her smile and “let’s say no more” expression.
  12. parameter
    any factor defining a system and determining its performance
    Of course, officially, guardians weren’t supposed to show favouritism, but there were little displays of affection all the time within certain parameters; and most of what Ruth suggested fell easily within them.
  13. brood
    think moodily or anxiously about something
    I was never the sort of kid who brooded over things for hours on end.
  14. huffy
    roused to anger
    The first few times I saw her after the conversation under the eaves, I was ready for at least a bit of huffiness, but no, she was completely civil, if a little flat.
  15. quandary
    state of uncertainty in a choice between unfavorable options
    I just came in before Midge or anyone else had the chance to notice Ruth was in a curious quandary.
  16. jut
    extend out or project in space
    “You see, because it’s stuck out here on the east, on this hump jutting into the sea, it’s not on the way to anywhere. People going north and south”—she moved the pointer up and down—“they bypass it altogether. For that reason, it’s a peaceful corner of England, rather nice. But it’s also something of a lost corner.”
  17. mystique
    an aura of heightened interest surrounding a person or thing
    The fact that we’d never seen a picture of the place only added to its mystique.
  18. swarthy
    naturally having skin of a dark color
    I think it’s supposed to be South America, because there are palms behind her and swarthy waiters in white tuxedos.
  19. complacent
    contented to a fault with oneself or one's actions
    Or maybe I’d just got complacent by then.
  20. fathom
    come to understand
    Except this time there was something else, something extra in that look I couldn’t fathom.
  21. waylay
    wait in hiding to attack
    I wasn’t ashamed exactly: but it was a bit like that earlier time, when we’d all waylaid Madame in the courtyard as she got out of her car.
  22. reconcile
    accept as inevitable
    Then maybe a fortnight later, when I’d long reconciled myself to having truly lost my tape, she came and found me during the lunch break.
  23. ebb
    flow back or recede
    And suddenly I felt the disappointment ebbing away and being replaced by a real happiness.
  24. brooch
    a decorative pin
    It’s an object, like a brooch or a ring, and especially now Ruth has gone, it’s become one of my most precious possessions.
  25. riotous
    characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination
    For a moment things got riotous, with everyone shouting and mimicking touching electric fences.
  26. rove
    move about aimlessly or without any destination
    Then she went silent, but my impression was that she was continuing to say things inside her head, because for some time her gaze kept roving over us, going from face to face just as if she were still speaking to us.
  27. contortion
    the act of twisting or deforming the shape of something
    We watched in complete astonishment as she put the skeleton through various contortions, thrusting her pointer around without the slightest self-consciousness.
  28. obscene
    offensive to the mind
    Then suddenly, with the skeleton in an obscene heap on the desktop, she turned away and began telling us how we had to be careful...
  29. nonchalantly
    in a composed and unconcerned manner
    Christopher went on eating, then said nonchalantly:
    “Don’t you know? If it’s right on the elbow like that, it can unzip. All you have to do is bend your arm quickly. Not just that actual bit, the whole elbow, it can all unzip like a bag opening up. Thought you’d know that.”
  30. splint
    a medical device to immobilize and protect a body part
    What Tommy was asking me now was to help tie a splint on the arm to keep it rigid through the night.
  31. impinge
    infringe upon
    All that business about “unzipping,” that was typical of the way the whole subject impinged on us when we were thirteen.
  32. scrawl
    write carelessly
    She herself was leaning over in concentration, forehead very low, arms up on the surface, scrawling furious lines over a page with a pencil.
  33. gouge
    make a groove in
    As I watched, she went on scrubbing the pencil point over the paper, almost in the way we did shading in Art, except her movements were much more angry, as if she didn’t mind gouging right through the sheet.
  34. stifling
    characterized by oppressive heat and humidity
    I remember it being stifling that day, even though we had the fan rattling behind us.
  35. commandeer
    take arbitrarily or by force
    We were using charcoal, and because someone had commandeered all the easels, we were having to work with our boards propped up on our laps.
  36. perceptive
    having the ability to understand
    But Cynthia was a perceptive person, and the fact that she wasn’t part of our group just gave her remark more weight.
  37. demented
    affected with madness or insanity
    There was a bluebottle buzzing around, and for a minute we had a laugh playing “bluebottle tennis,” throwing our hands about to make the demented creature go from one to the other of us.
  38. deadlock
    a situation in which no progress can be made
    In the end I decided to break the deadlock and said: “Tommy, let’s talk now. There’s something I want to talk to you about.”
  39. bonhomie
    a disposition to be friendly and approachable
    So now, to prove he was happy, here he was, trying to sparkle with bonhomie.
  40. negligible
    not worth considering
    “If it wasn’t ‘rubbish’ it was something like it. Negligible. That might have been it. Or incompetent. She might as well have said rubbish. She said she was sorry she’d told me what she had the last time because if she hadn’t, I might have sorted it all by now.”
Created on January 17, 2018 (updated January 17, 2018)

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