Monday, January 12, 2009

Never Let Me Go

Ishiguro, Kazuo. 2005. Never Let Me Go. 288.

My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years. That sounds long enough, I know, but actually they want me to go on for another eight months, until the end of this year. That'll make it almost exactly twelve years.

Sounds like a confession, doesn't it? Like she's apologizing for being alive. And in a way, that's true, I suppose. Because although it's set in England in the late 1990s, the novel is anything but realistic fiction. No, the world created by Kazuo Ishiguro is frighteningly surreal. Kathy--and others like her--exist for one reason, and one reason only. But I suppose some won't want to go there. To know the ending before they've got acquainted with the beginning.

Kathy, our narrator, is reflecting back on her life--her childhood, her teen years, her young adult years before, during, and after "becoming" a carer. For most of that time, she had a secluded life, a privileged life considering the truth of the matter, in a boarding school called Hailsham. The book is about her life and her relationships. Primarily the book is about her relationships with two people: Ruth and Tommy.

Never Let Me Go is a good example of the distinction between adult and young adult fiction. Though the book is about teenagers--Kathy and friends--the book is for adults. It's tone is reflective, contemplative, distant. It never felt like a child was telling the story. Or a teen. The perspective was all grown up, all the time. (Then again, I think you'd grow up pretty fast if this was your reality.)

And this distance serves a purpose, mostly. Kathy is a strange narrator, an odd woman, a woman eerily comfortable with the truth: what has happened to her friends, her acquaintances, everyone 'like' her... and what will happen to her in the days, weeks, and months ahead. It's hard to know just what is the most disturbing in this book--the truth itself or the fact that there is no reaction, no horror at the truth. The matter-of-factness of it all. The cold acceptance.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Serena 12:30 PM  

This review is fantastic. I love the distinction you make about the narration and whether it is for adults or young adults.

Andi 12:44 PM  

I've had this one on my stacks for what feels like forever!!! Your review was a very good push, though. It sounds amazing.

Kristi 2:28 PM  

You summary of this book is fantastic! I read it last fall and take my hat off to you. I always love to read someone else's review of something I have already read when I can say "Yes - that is what I meant!" Great job.


jocelyn 3:06 PM  

Oooh, this looks really intriguing. I also think I've seen it at the bookstore before and been interested, but I have the tragic habit of going to the bookstore while broke. Adding it to my wishlist!

Also, this is just a fantastically written and thoughtful review. I am impressed. I aspire to write my reviews as well as you do.

Anonymous,  3:13 PM  

Yeah, for my blog, Spica Casts, I find that I just have to type it in as I'm thinking about it. The more I sit down and dream, and do less writing, the more problems I run into down the road.

In fact, use my email between my wife and I, who both writes on the blog, to shoot ideas back and forth. Sometimes I'll be driving home and I'll think of a new problem our readers might encounter that I want to write about. If I don't do it immediatley, I end up forgetting what it was down the road... or, it just never gets done.

Ana S. 3:38 PM  

I've been wanting to read this ever since Eva reviewed it for the Sci-Fi Experiment last year. One year later and I still haven't! Thanks for reminding me about it.

Unknown 3:50 PM  

Wonderful review.

Anonymous,  6:06 PM  

I'll sound like a parrot by saying your review is fantastic and it will be the truth. The last sentence gave me a sinking feeling at the pit of my stomach. This one sounds really bleak.

Anonymous,  6:34 PM  

What a fantastic review! I also really enjoyed this book... I was pretty stunned by how amazing it was, actually.

chrisa511 12:48 AM  

Oooh, I really want to read this's been on the mental wishlist for awhile now, but I think I'll go ahead and put it on the real wishlist. Sounds great Becky!

Peta 6:19 AM  

I read this book last year and it took my breath away. It's such a thought provoking and well written novel that fits perfectly within the spirit of the Sci-Fi experience that I'd recommend it without hesitation!

b 5:03 PM me interested! I'll have to look this one up. Thanks for the great review! B.

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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