Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

It's been about a week (hopefully not more!) that I've read Kazuo Ishiguro's widely talked about novel Never Let Me Go. My own experience with Mr Ishiguro has not been a completely successful one. On my postmodernist college course, we've dealt with The Remains of the Day extensively. I even wrote a paper about it, but it wasn't the most exciting (or interesting) book to read. Stylistically, it was amazing. On a more personal level, not by a long shot. So imagine my surprise when my next Ishiguro read turned out to be possibly the best book I've read in 2010!

The protagonist and narrator of the story is a girl named Kathy. Kathy relates the story of her childhood in the school named Hailsham, of her formative years spent on a farm after graduation, and of her (young) adult years spent working as a sort of nurse. Reading the book, there is an uncomfortable feeling. Although the book feels very human and real, Ishiguro's England doesn't quite seem like the England we know, and although the twist is really quite predictable and not at all shocking (nor should it be!), it is still a chilling story that bears more meaning than it might seem. (very mild spoilers ahead)

You see, Kathy (along with her two friends, the fiery Ruth and the absent-minded Tommy) is a clone, her life designed only to be spent living healthily and caring for other people of her "kind" until she becomes a donor and ultimately completes. Ishiguro intentionally doesn't go into detailed explanation of what all this means, however, it's more than enough. I liked how the book, although it may seem a bit futuristic, is really very much grounded and more concerned with emotions and allegorical social criticism than its own universe. It is surprisingly human and sad, a sort of warning that sounds very nostalgic. Kathy is a very unreliable narrator, which is a big part of the book's charm - the character's are so naive and clueless as to what is going on with and around them, that they often provoke the saddest of emotions.

To simplify, it is a book about all of us - about first love, adolescence and growing up - set in a world which doesn't value its people and where feelings always have to bow down before function.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book for some wonderful, warm (and not at all pretentious!) Christmas reading, especially with the movie coming out soon. It is maybe the best book I read this year and one I'd love to hear some feedback on.



Amanda said...

I read this one in spring '09 as part of my 2nds Challenge. I planned to only read 2nd books by authors I didn't like the first time (I'd read and hated The Unconsoled). At the time I read this, I was very meh about it, sort of 3 of 5 star sort of rating. However, it stayed in my head and rooted there, so that after six months it had become one of my favorites of the year as well.

The movie is already out here, though only in limited theatres. My friend Karen and I went to see it at this artsy theatre we have in town (the only place that was showing it) about a month ago. I think it's already was pretty good! Very faithful to the book.

Nikola said...

I envy you so much for seeing it Amanda! :) I wanna see it ASAP, but it might not even come to Serbia until it's on DVD. Which sucks.

Trisha said...

I've been meaning to read this for so long. Bad Trisha.

Ryan G said...

This has been on my TBR list for a while now and I always seemed to get waylaid by other books. I'm going to get ahold of this one soon, hopefully. Great review.

Wall-to-wall books said...

I love the cover on this!
I love pictures with water, boats, docks, etc. and the colors just make it seem so peaceful.

Amy said...

This sounds like something I would really enjoy - I am going to look for it.

Jenny Girl said...

I just read about this book in another review. You said spoilers and thanks for the warning, so I didn't read your the whole review. I am getting this book as soon as I can. Thanks Nikola :)

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Nikola,

It's been forever since I've been by - sorry for neglecting you and your excellent blog!

I loved NEVER LET ME GO also. I read it before REMAINS OF THE DAY, and I believe that I appreciated the second book more having read the first. Although NLMG is more plot-driven, both novels have a quiet to them, a sense of resignation and decorum. Actually, both are more concerned with the characters. Nothing much happens on the outside, especially in ROTD, but we see revolutions within the heart of the characters.


Harvee said...

You and others have convinced me that I have to read this! Thanks for the review.