Saturday, June 6, 2009

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let me Go, is set around the lives of a group of students growing up in a seemingly idyllic English boarding School set in an alternative 1990s. In my opinion, this book is best described as 'haunting' and will stay in your thoughts long after you've put the book back on the shelf.

Its hard to go into any details, as i don't want to ruin the plot, but this book encapsulates a number of broad and important themes, such as what is it that makes us human?- the soul, love, creativity etc., Is our future already determined by who/what we are? The field of medical science and Ethics?

The power of Ishiguro's writing can be best summed up with this quote :

"What I like in a good author isn't what he says, but what he whispers." Logan Pearsall Smith

Although this novel starts in a comfortable nostalgic way, there is always a shadow or hint of the true nature of this skewed world, and although Kath the narrator does touch and question these elements, her own fear of the truth makes her 'push it to the back of her mind'. As a result, the narration isn't a linear telling of the events of Kath, Tommy and Ruth at Hailsham and beyond, but a tapestry of memories and thoughts.

A natural telling of someone narrating their own story. A story which has elements that reflect the experiences of a 'normal' childhood.

Easily this novel could have focused on the more 'cold' aspects of this alternative world, giving dates and figures etc. but instead to reiterate the overall point, it barely hints at the facts of this world till the end, where previous snippets of information are finally tied together and the hard truth of Kath's fate is revealed. But instead it focuses on the 'human' story, through the telling of Kath's life - it properly shows how tragic and inevitable the fate of the donors' lifes are and the lies people tell themselves to cope with being both a donor/carer or being a normal.

Overall, an exceptional complex book which i found hard to review without going into great detail.

10/10 !


Jane Steen said...

I found that there was something very uncomfortable about the nostalgic passages that somehow prefigured the more shocking revelations as the novel progressed. Kath is a strangely unemotional narrator, which gives her story a precise and yet unreal quality. The comparison that comes to mind is Wyndham's The Chrysalids, which to my mind is a better read. Never Let Me Go is worth the detour, though.

Emily Cross said...

Jane - i may add that book to my list, this book was also compared to 'handmaid tale'. personally apart from Kath's unemotionality as a narrator, i was very frustrated that her and Tommy seemed to give up and just accept their lot.

I know that that ending was essential to illustrate the horror of the situation though.

Rebecca :) said...

This sounds interesting. I had not heard of this one. Thanks for the review. Your comments, as well as Jane Steen's, are interesting, too.

moonrat said...

augh, this is one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors. certainly difficult, uncomfortable, even painful to read... but he has this way of getting into your head.

thanks for the review :)

Kristin Dodge said...

Great review... my only issue was that Kathy *never* questioned anything. She always "spun on her heel and stalked off" (I believe that is verbatim in more than one section). What a great place for more development, but it was wasted.

Otherwise, a fascinating concept.

fairyhedgehog said...

I loved this book. I listened to the audio version as I drove to work each day and I think that made it more compelling for me than if I'd read it - although I later did read it too.

Little incidents stuck in my mind, like the physical description of a purse (or was it a pencil case?) that the narrator got at a sale at the school. It gave me a sense of how apparently small things matter to children and how difficult childhood actually is when adults hide the realities of life from the children.

I remember as a child frequently feeling baffled by what grown-ups told me.

I thought this was a beautiful book as well as a very creepy one and the images stayed with me for a long time.