0044 | Never Let Me Go ~ Kazuo Ishiguro

If you enjoyed this book, you’re going to love the map.

REVIEW
Ishiguro picks you up and sets you down in the English summer idyll of tranquil boarding school life. He weaves you into the relationships that the narrator has constructed around her. And just when you begin to wonder where this idyll will take you, there’s an eclipse of the sun.

I love books or films that completely throw me, catch me out or stop me in my tracks. It doesn’t happen very often. Maybe it’s because the boarding school life he constructed was so similar to my own experience that I was sucked right into a preconceived way of thinking about the characters and the unfolding events.

But once the sky had clouded over, it was impossible to ever go back to the halcyon beginnings of the book. I’m sure that is exactly what Ishiguro intended and why the first person narration in this book is the perfect vehicle for the story. He takes you on a very journey of discovery that Kathy H., the narrator, would have been on herself.

Sure, the writing was a little formulaic at times. There are devices he reuses a little too much. But the story is so well put together and so unexpectedly different from what you start out thinking that it works very very well.

In the end though, it was a disappointment to me. The book raises questions about issues that we must face if we are to come fully to terms with our humanity. And that, disappointingly like Middlesex, is as far as this novel goes. Why does there seem to be such a taboo to attempt an answer for these desperately important issues?

To my mind, novels are perfect places not simply to raise issues about what it is to be human but also great vehicles for exploring answers. To not even offer a suggestion perhaps quesitons whether it would be better not raising the issue at all.

Towards the end of the book, for example, the subject of whether the possession of a soul is a prerequisite for being human surfaces. In fact, at this point, you realise that it has quite possibly been there all through the novel. But just when you feel that the author may do something as radical as actually reveal a point of view, there’s a banal interruption and the issue is never finally dealt with.

In my experience this bears an uncanny resemblance to the attitude of the majority of people I work/live with. They seem scared to be convinced one way or the other on the issues that are really important, shuffling around the issue or doing ostrich impressions whenever the hint of something weighty appears on the horizon. But God help you if you mention something vital to life such as football or the best way to brew tea!

In the final analysis, Never Let Me Go, like Middlesex before it, is a novel that succinctly illustrates the failure of a modern society to adequately deal with the crucial issues that lie before it. I’m not the only one who seems to be irritated by this tendency I’ve noticed. A frustrating read it may have been for me, but at least I see more clearly what life without answers to these questions is like.

OPENING LINE
My name is Kathy H.

CULTURE
British » Daniel Deronda

GEOGRAPHY
If you’ve got Google Earth installed on your pc, you can actually see the locations mentioned in this book by downloading Arukiyomi’s Google Earth – Never Let Me Go file.

CLOSING LINE
I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.

RATING:
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good > excellent > superb

  • Matt August 7, 2007, 10:51 pm

    I felt exactly the same way about this book, it brings up a lot of questions and then makes no effort to answer them. I would have loved to have seen some attempt at answers. It did get me thinking some, but not as much as it could have. I think I was probably more disappointed with this book than you. I didn’t like it much at all.

    Reply
  • Annie August 8, 2007, 3:11 am

    This book really holds up under a second reading. I do feel like Ishiguro is engaging with these issues & offering a point of view in the only way possible: indirectly. Issues related to bioethics are so fraught these days that any clear statement ends up being seen as propaganda.

    Reply
  • verbivore August 23, 2007, 6:39 pm

    I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile now and I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about it here. I especially like how you write about literature being a way to explore both the questions and the answers. I couldn’t agree more.

    Reply
  • Apple August 14, 2008, 5:08 am

    “To my mind, novels are perfect places not simply to raise issues about what it is to be human but also great vehicles for exploring answers. To not even offer a suggestion perhaps quesitons whether it would be better not raising the issue at all.”

    I disagree; novels are not always necessarily about providing or exploring answers. Sometimes, it is simply the questions raised or about the experience of lack of closure and discovery. Never Let Me Go can be seen as a book that raises more questions than answers as the story progresses; however, this in itself is a technique.

    Never Let Me Go can definitely be considered to be part of the Contemporary Literature genre, and one of the genre’s features is itself the frustrating, open-ended resolution, the lack of closure and happy ending. This encourages to think for ourselves what the answer is, rather than giving it to us on a silver platter or simply inclining the way in which we should think. The novel is to be ambiguous and fuzzy, like looking through tinted glass; because sometimes in life, not everything is certain.

    It’s in the way that Kazuo Ishiguro has applied the narrative voice, the subtlety of the hints that unfolds throughout the book, the thought provoking issues raised, making seemingly small, insignificant details of daily life profound that makes this such a great read.

    Reply
  • Arukiyomi August 14, 2008, 9:05 am

    great comment! made me think – thanks for sharing this. I think I am learning to understand what the technique is you are explaining here. Note though that I am simply questioning the technique rather than speaking against it. In our lives these days, because “not everything is certain” many of us are crying out for answers. It would be nice for those who have a voice to throw us a lifeline every now and then

    Reply
  • Derek Catermole July 20, 2009, 11:19 pm

    What is the matter with you? Why do you presume to pass judgment on a work of fiction you clearly do not begin to understand, especially when you acknowledge openly that you don’t know any damn thing anyhow.

    Reply
  • Arukiyomi July 21, 2009, 12:00 pm

    [quote comment=”17609″]What is the matter with you? Why do you presume to pass judgment on a work of fiction you clearly do not begin to understand, especially when you acknowledge openly that you don’t know any damn thing anyhow.[/quote]
    Derek… thanks so much for your comment. I’ve been blogging for over five years and, now that I’ve finally attracted your infamous attention, feel like I’ve made it. A quick Google suffices to let me know that Arukiyomi is now up there amongst some truly great blogs that have had the honour of your commenting company over the years.

    What you don’t know though is that hardly anyone posts on Arukiyomi so you won’t start a flame war here. Nice try though.

    Reply

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