If you enjoyed this book, you’re going to love the map.
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.
My name is Kathy H.
British » Daniel Deronda
I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good > excellent > superb