I actually read this book a few months ago, but the surreal nature of it has lingered on my mind ever since. It's a funny kind of novel – distinctive, somewhat familiar, odd in all aspects – and if you were to ask me why I love it so dearly… I wouldn't be able to tell you. Kazuo Ishiguro has crafted a fragile novel that I read with great caution; perhaps under the impression that, with one turn of the page, I could break it, shattering a world that is a blur of own.
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro | Publisher: Faber and Faber | Pages: 288 | Source: Borrowed
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
As a child, Kathy – now thirty-one years old – lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.
And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed – even comforted – by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.
MY THOUGHTS: Never Let Me Go will not be for everyone. Yet there will be some who just get it; some who are immediately entranced by the slow, sleep-inducing metronomic flow of words; some who will fall to sleep the night after finishing, with echoes of Hailsham littering their dreams. Never Let Me Go will not please the entire crowd of dystopian-lovers, just the few of them who want brilliant prose and a subtle element of darkness.
“A part of us stayed like that: fearful of the world around us, and-no matter how much we despised ourselves for it-unable quite to let each other go.”
But, perhaps the most fascinating element of this novel is Ishiguro's characterisation as characters are rarely - if ever - quite as human as they are in Never Let Me Go. Which is incredibly ironic given their formulaic upbringings; the isolated Kathy, the manipulative Ruth, the manipulated Tommy have all been broken by the society in which they live: a society which arouses some questions about our own. Kathy's narrative is fragile, and the clarity with which she regards the past is questionable… Ishiguro has created a protagonist, whose voice is rich and true-spoken, and yet confused and splintered.
“Poor creatures. What did we do to you? With all our schemes and plans?”
All in all, I really cannot recommend Never Let Me Go enough; like I said to begin with, it won't be for everyone, but if you want a refreshing narrative and a prose which raises many philosophical questions, you should give this a go.
Ishiguro has this very odd way with words… his words evoke incredibly strong images, memories and feelings. Everything about his version of contemporary England is strangely nostalgic and recognisable – which I guess adds to how unnerving the whole novel is.