Thursday, May 25, 2006

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I picked up this book on Monday, after having had it on my list for a while. I loved it so much that I wanted to share it all with you.

First of all, it's not the sort of book I'd normally buy - it's won all sorts of literary awards and to be honest, I often get put off by that (reverse snobbery, I know). What sold me on this from the start was the story, the ideas behind it (which goes to show that a good story can win over the unlikeliest readers).

It's really difficult to describe this book without giving away the central twist but I'll try. Kathy, the narrator, is in her early thirties and coming to the end of her term as a "carer". During this time, she starts to think about her early life as a student at Hailsham, an exclusive school, but one where the students are "told, but not told" what their ultimate purpose in life is. And it's that purpose that makes this such a troubling book.

The following paragraph from a Salon article on the book, captures much of what the story is about and you might even guess what Kathy and her friends' purpose is in life.
...Still, as they grow older, they begin to confront the fact that they are not like "normal people": They are human beings who have no parents and who will have no children, and none of them will make it long past the beginning of middle age. (In the bureaucratic dialect Ishiguro has created, successful donors do not die, they "complete" -- and what lies beyond that is the subject of a troubling rumor.)
The thing about this book is that though the story it tells is very sad, horrendous in fact, the book itself isn't overtly sad (which isn't to say the sadness isn't there). What saves this story is its narrator - she goes about her business with practical calm, never raging about what's in store for her, never being self-pitying. The prose is very easily readable, very accessible.

I'm not saying this book is perfect. There were some questions in my mind after I read it, things that were left hanging or I felt hadn't been adequately addressed, but even with all that, it was a book that caught me from the first page and didn't let go until I had finished. And if there were questions left, then perhaps that was the author's intent? Because this is definitely a book that makes you think as it tells you a very good story.

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