Sunday, February 6, 2011

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Before the random number generator chose Never Let Me Go, I had never actually heard of it before. It landed on the master list because Time Magazine included it in their 'Best of' novel list. When I chose it, based on the title alone, I was thinking: "Oh geez, a romance novel. Lovely." Luckily, this novel is not actually in the romance genre. If anything, Never Let Me Go is a mystery. The form of it makes it very, very difficult to give details without spoiling surprising plot points, so this review will be relatively brief (plus Superbowl food isn't going to make itself!)

This novel, which was written by the British author Kazuo Ishiguro, is narrated by Kathy, a woman who is going through work and life transitions in a modern-day alternate-universe England. She takes this time to reminisce about her time at a special, insular school named Halsham and her friendship with two other students there. The narration traces the life of those three from early childhood to adulthood as they realize the existence of and then question the reason for various peculiarities at Halsham. Why are they at the school? Why are they not ever allowed to leave? Why, even as young children, do the students have the best of their art taken out of the school annually by a mysterious woman who seems to fear the children? All of these questions and many more are explained as the narration progresses.

The author does a tremendous job painting the characters for this novel. In particular, Kathy's two best friends, Ruth and Tommy, are brilliantly characterized. Ruth is somewhat two-faced: steadfastly loyal at times, yet willing to trash on Kathy and Tommy numerous times in the novel to impress others. Tommy is childlike and ebullient, yet with a vicious temper and is prone to ridiculous tantrums. Kathy herself is never really examined deeply since it is her that is telling the story. The most you find out about her is that she is somewhat sentimental (for a Halsham student, at least) and she has a very curious nature about her.

The narration has a very matter of fact way of telling the story, which at first bothered me, but then I realized it was purposefully done to reflect how Kathy was raised at Halsham. Concepts or occurrences that may seem absolutely outrageous to the reader are put forth by the narrator and are not analyzed or begged "why?". This is an interesting way for the author to deal with a very controversial topic. By taking his own voice out of the equation, he avoids the need to moralize on one of the two main themes of Never Let Me Go, which happens to be scientific ethics. The other, less sensitive them of the novel, is of course friendship. The interactions over time between the three characters is extremely interesting, especially in contrast with the way we are used to children acting.

Is Never Let Me Go worth a read? Heck yes, it is. Does it deserve a spot on a top one-hundred novels list? I'm not so certain. It is a very touching and eye-opening novel. If fact, I would actually describe it as heartbreaking. I just wouldn't put it in the same category as some of the other great novels that have ever been written. Because of this, I give Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro a 3.75 out of 5 stars (with 4 stars being the cut off for deserving to be on the list).


Next up for review: The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald! Also, you may have noticed that I've been posting a lot of non-book stuff lately. That isn't necessarily the way this blog is going, but I don't want to niche this in just as a purely book blog, so I'll be posting other content I feel is neat as I go along. I'm a well-rounded individual!