Friday, 15 February 2008

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is the first or final (depending on which way you look at it!) book on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. I've had discussions with a friend about these more recent books on the list - how can a book that was only out for 6 months or less before publication of '1001 Books' make the list? How can anyone have enough perspective on how well it will last - how significant it will be in the future?

Ishiguro does have a very good record 1001-Bookwise, with five books on the list (none of which I'd read), and I guess we could always wait for the second edition to see if 'Never Let Me Go' stands the test of time :-) Or, I guess, you can just read the book and decide for yourself. This is what I did, and I heartily agree with it's inclusion on the list. Told by Kathy H., 'Never Let Me Go' is a deeply personal tale that also, eventually and inevitably, has huge social and political implications. It's beautifully told and it'll make you think.

It's very hard to describe what happens in this book in a way that won't spoil the story. Even knowing that the story could be spoilt is more than I knew going in. All I had done was briefly skim the back blurb and got 'a group of students growing up', 'contemporary England', and maybe 'idyllic Hailsham School'. What I missed, however, was 'darkly-skewed'. Ishiguro has written an excellent first person narrative. Kathy sees her life as normal and so she narrates it as such. However, as we hear tales of her school life and friendships in slow and absorbing detail, it becomes apparent that all is not as we would expect. Apparently innocuous words begin to take on a sinister feel, as the context in which they are used makes us realise they have other meanings in Kathy's world. These 'flashes' of discord enticed me, drew me in and made me want to know what was on earth going on. However Ishiguro narrates this story so slowly and skillfully - so true to Kathy - that it is only, finally, at the end that the reader can finally appreciate the world into which Kathy and her friends have been born (if even then). I couldn't help but think of the huge implications of the world in which Kathy lives, should it ever occur in real life.

I'm going to keep this book for a while and then read it again to see how I feel about it on a second reading. I won't be so caught up with finding out what's happening, and perhaps then, I'll be able to just experience the emotion of the story. I suspect I'll cry...

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