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.