Chapters 10-17

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. furrow
    hollow out in the form of a groove
    Sometimes I’ll be driving on a long weaving road across marshland, or maybe past rows of furrowed fields, the sky big and grey and never changing mile after mile, and I find I’m thinking about my essay, the one I was supposed to be writing back then, when we were at the Cottages.
  2. tenuous
    lacking substance or significance
    We didn’t know then that all these places had only the most tenuous links with Hailsham.
  3. veteran
    an experienced person who has given long service
    He’d shown us a list of chores when we’d first arrived, and the students who were already there—“the veterans,” as Hannah called them—had long since worked out a rota which we kept to conscientiously.
  4. conscientious
    characterized by extreme care and great effort
    He’d shown us a list of chores when we’d first arrived, and the students who were already there—“the veterans,” as Hannah called them—had long since worked out a rota which we kept to conscientiously.
  5. frivolous
    not serious in content, attitude, or behavior
    We kept asking him to leave a big supply with us, but he’d shake his head gloomily, like we were bound to use them up frivolously or else cause an explosion.
  6. languid
    lacking spirit or liveliness
    If someone mentions the Cottages today, I think of easy-going days drifting in and out of each other’s rooms, the languid way the afternoon would fold into evening then into night.
  7. incongruous
    lacking in harmony or compatibility or appropriateness
    But then again, when I think about it, there’s a sense in which that picture of us on that first day, huddled together in front of the farmhouse, isn’t so incongruous after all.
  8. mannerism
    a behavioral attribute that is distinctive to an individual
    There was, incidentally, something I noticed about these veteran couples at the Cottages—something Ruth, for all her close study of them, failed to spot—and this was how so many of their mannerisms were copied from the television.
  9. emphatic
    forceful and definite in expression or action
    There was this particular thing Susie did whenever Greg set off on one of his speeches about Proust or whoever: she’d smile at the rest of us, roll her eyes, and mouth very emphatically, but only just audibly: “Gawd help us.”
  10. spiel
    artful or slick talk used to persuade
    There was a character—a large woman who lived next door to the main characters—who did exactly what Susie did, so when her husband went off on a big spiel, the audience would be waiting for her to roll her eyes and say “Gawd help us” so they could burst out with this huge laugh.
  11. breach
    act in disregard of laws, rules, contracts, or promises
    Okay, this had never been spelt out exactly, but it was definitely, as I say, an understanding, and until the afternoon of the Daniel Deronda business, neither of us had come anywhere near breaching it.
  12. anecdote
    short account of an incident
    The veterans were never slow coming out with funny anecdotes about characters they’d met on trips to the White Mansion or to Poplar Farm; but they hardly ever mentioned students who, right up until just before we’d arrived, must have been their intimate friends.
  13. blase
    nonchalantly unconcerned
    The veterans usually laughed when one showed up and flicked through it quickly in a blasé way before throwing it aside, so we did the same.
  14. aura
    distinctive but intangible quality around a person or thing
    For one thing, the grumbling he usually kept up suddenly stopped and this silence alone gave him an alarming aura.
  15. purge
    an act of removing by cleansing
    When I pointed out to Laura that Keffers had left the magazines behind, she said: “Well, they won’t stay put for long. He’ll just have to collect them all up again, next time he decides on a purge.”
  16. advert
    a public promotion of some product or service
    Even in the little adverts for videos or whatever tucked away to the side, I checked each model’s face before moving on.
  17. fretful
    nervous and unable to relax
    When I looked up again, his hands were hovering fretfully in the air, like I was doing a complicated manual task and he was itching to help.
  18. intrigue
    cause to be interested or curious
    Though most of us had first come across the idea of “possibles” back at Hailsham, we’d sensed we weren’t supposed to discuss it, and so we hadn’t—though for sure, it had both intrigued and disturbed us.
  19. solemn
    characterized by a firm belief in your opinions
    At the same time, you could tell people were fascinated—obsessed, in some cases—and so it kept coming up, usually in solemn arguments, a world away from our ones about, say, James Joyce.
  20. spate
    a large number or amount or extent
    Weeks could go by with no one mentioning the subject, then one reported sighting would trigger off a whole spate of others.
  21. chortle
    laugh quietly or with restraint
    In any discussion, you knew he’d back up Chrissie’s angle, and if Chrissie ever said anything mildly amusing, he’d be chortling and shaking his head like he couldn’t believe how funny it was.
  22. dynamic
    characterized by action or forcefulness of personality
    She even talked at one point about how the people in her office would all be “ dynamic, go-ahead types,” and I remembered clearly those same words written in big letters across the top of the advert: “Are you the dynamic, go-ahead type?”—something like that.
  23. patronizing
    characteristic of those who treat others with arrogance
    The point about Chrissie—and this applied to a lot of the veterans—was that for all her slightly patronising manner towards us when we’d first arrived, she was awestruck about our being from Hailsham.
  24. obscure
    not clearly understood or expressed
    Then once, when Chrissie made a really obscure reference—she’d said something like: “Oh, yes, the time he put out his jeans!”—Ruth gave a big laugh and signalled in our direction, as though to say to Chrissie: “Go on, explain it to them so they can enjoy it too.”
  25. pretext
    a fictitious reason that conceals the real reason
    For a moment, as he said this, the fear passed through me that we’d misjudged things badly; that for all we knew, veterans often used talk of possibles just as a pretext to go on trips, and didn’t really expect to take it any further.
  26. tentatively
    in a hesitant manner
    I could see them bringing it up, at first very tentatively, shrugging, putting it to one side, bringing it up again, never able quite to leave it alone.
  27. gist
    the choicest or most vital part of some idea or experience
    But I’d heard enough to get the gist of it; and I knew it had specifically to do with us Hailsham students.
  28. elated
    exultantly proud and joyful; in high spirits
    It was hard to read her face at that moment: she certainly wasn’t disappointed, but then she wasn’t elated either.
  29. despondent
    without or almost without hope
    Regardless of what had been going on between us that day, deep down, none of us wanted Ruth to return home despondent, and at that moment we thought we were safe.
  30. astride
    with one leg on each side
    But Ruth did sit on it, knees on either side like she was astride a horse.
  31. antic
    a playful, attention-getting act done for fun and amusement
    There’s a breeze messing up her hair, and the bright winter sun’s making her crinkle up her eyes, so you’re not sure if she’s smiling at our antics, or just grimacing in the light.
  32. cornice
    a molding between the ceiling and the top of a wall
    The walls and ceilings were peppermint, and here and there, you’d see a bit of fishing net, or a rotted piece from a boat stuck up high near the cornicing.
  33. tangible
    perceptible by the senses, especially the sense of touch
    It was a feeling that grew among us almost tangibly, and I could tell that Ruth, absorbed in a picture on the other side of the room, was feeling it as much as anyone.
  34. promenade
    a public area set aside as a pedestrian walk
    And like before, if you peered over the rail, you could see the paths zigzagging down to the seafront, except this time you could see the promenade at the bottom with rows of boarded-up stalls.
  35. profound
    showing intellectual penetration or emotional depth
    “Thank you for your profound contribution, Tommy,” said Ruth.
  36. coquettish
    like a flirtatious woman
    I’d been flicking through a row of cassette cases, my mind on other things, when suddenly there it was, under my fingers, looking just the way it had all those years ago: Judy, her cigarette, the coquettish look for the barman, the blurred palms in the background.
  37. aback
    by surprise
    So I was taken aback at how densely detailed each one was.
  38. lethargy
    weakness characterized by a lack of vitality or energy
    I remember a huge tiredness coming over me, a kind of lethargy in the face of the tangled mess before me.
  39. tiff
    a petty quarrel
    But I didn’t believe it to be anything so different from other tiffs we’d had.
  40. conciliatory
    intended to placate
    I’d made my voice conciliatory, and Ruth responded.
Created on January 17, 2018 (updated January 17, 2018)

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