Sunday, 5 December 2010

Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.


Product details:
Publisher: Faber & Faber.
Paperback, 304 pages.
Release date: October 14th 2010 (first published 2005).
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Ages: Adult.

From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day comes a devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.

Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author of The Remains of the Day.


Never Let Me Go was my first foray into the work of Kazuo Ishiguro and it definitely left a lasting impression on me. It’s one that I’m very glad to have read even though the ending left me drained and in tears. Be warned, this is not an easy read. My interest in this book was piqued when I saw the movie trailer, which raises a lot of questions and hints at deeply-buried and dangerous secrets. Beyond that, I knew very little about this book, and that’s the best way, the only way, really, to read this one. Never Let Me Go packs a huge emotional punch. Many books may tug at your heartstrings, but this one will rip your heart right out.

I should point out that this book is often categorised as science fiction and I think that’s somewhat misleading. Certainly, if I had read that this was science fiction, I wouldn’t have picked it up, as it’s not a genre I ever really read. So, while there are definite elements of science fiction here here, I would class this as a mostly dystopian, part coming of age novel. One that deals with love, loyalty, friendship, betrayal, illness and loss.

Our introduction to Kathy H., our narrator, sees her living in England of the late 1990’s and working as a carer. She is in a reflective mood, looking back on her days at Hailsham, an elite and idyllic boarding school set in the English countryside which she attends with her friends Ruth, who is presented as being quite bossy and bitchy and the boisterous and misunderstood Tommy. The students at Hailsham are special, but we are never told why. There is an inkling that all is not quite normal at Hailsham, but again, we aren’t really given an indication as to why that is. Kathy tells her story as though we are familiar with the society she lives in, and from the first sentences, we certainly know that there is something very peculiar about her world. She is resigned to the rules and regulations of her society. She doesn’t try to fight against it and doesn’t question the way things happen there. This fact, coupled with Kathy’s chatty style, as though she is talking to a friend, will lull the reader into a false sense of security and acceptance. The narration is childlike and na├»ve, but as the book progresses Ishiguro’s stark and simple style will leave the reader unsettled and on edge. When the truth is revealed about Kathy and her friends it is chilling and eerie. By this time the reader will pretty much know what is going on here, but won’t want to believe it. In this book Ishiguro creates a truly horrific world, not so far removed from our own, which will remind you of the fragility of life, and the importance of choice.

This book is one for the patient reader. I have read reviews that slated Never Let Me Go for being tiresome, boring and too slow-moving. It won’t be for everyone. It is slow moving in places, but that’s deliberate. Ishiguro wants his horror to happen slowly so that you can see it all unfolding right in front of your eyes, even though you might not quite believe what’s going on here. This book is beautifully written, truly astounding and terribly tragic. It’s definitely one that will prompt a lot of discussion, and will stay with you long after you’ve finished it. In a way, it will never let you go. Highly recommended.

25 comments :

  1. What a lovely, lovely review Leanna. I have to say I've just started this and don't find it slow-moving at all. One immediately gets the sense that something is off and rather sinister about the world that Kathy talks about. I find it intensely gripping for this reason and have all sorts of theories about just what's going on. Your review has obviously made me want to go back to the book right this minute actually. Can't wait to review this one!

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  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. I read it last year and it quickly became one of my favorite books of all time. I loved how it revealed its secrets slowly---I remember gasping several times while reading this. Fantastic review!

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  3. Wow that's a good review! I watched the trailer here on your blog and got interested, now I really put it on my wishlist:)

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  4. Loved your review! The movie trailer piqued my interest too! Me and my sister both want to see it really bad but its not playing anywhere near us. Phooey. :/ I'll have to try reading it sometime! It sounds AMAZING.

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  5. I love how beautiful and deep your review is, Leanna! These types of books are sort of hit or miss with me. I find that if the writing is fluid and beautiful, I tend to be riveted though. I'm definitely adding this to my list :)

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  6. Omg wow i just watched the trailer and it looks very interesting! the book must be amazing i must get my hands on it asap, thanks for introducing me to it Missy! :)

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  7. I'm reading this book right now, and just now found out it'll be a film soon! And with Keira Knightly, no less.
    But, yes, it is turning out to be slow. The beginning at least. Everyone says it's amazing though, so I'll see if I can finish it in the next few days. Before I Fall had a few first slow chapters, but it turned into an amazing read.
    I really want to love this book!

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  8. This has been a book that I've been wary about for a long time. You have officially convinced me that I need to read it! Great review! I'm really looking forward to reading it now.

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  9. Oh, I meant, that it'll be released in Argentina soon. I saw that it premiered last September in the north.

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  10. @Ella Press - I think the movie is releasing in Ireland in February. I can't wait to see it. Stick with the book - it is slow in parts, but it's such a great read! (well, I think so!) :)

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  11. Excellent review! This is one of those books that one can remember all their life. I fully agree when you said that the author wanted the horror unfold slowly in front of our eyes. One of the most powerful novels I have read!
    Kazuo Ishiguro's Remains of the Day is good too , though very different from Never Let Me go.

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  12. Wonderful review! I absolutely loved the story it told. It's definitely one I wont be forgetting any time soon.

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  13. great review! I like the sound of this one, will probably give it a try.

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  14. Beautiful review Leanna! Is this the one you read around the same time as Matched? Sometimes the slow moving ones have a more profound effect on me because I wind myself into a giant ball of tension waiting in anticipation of all that's going to be revealed. Definitely going to add this one to my list!

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  15. What a lovely review. I really enjoyed reading it.

    Never Let Me Go has been on my TBR for so long. I really need to get around to reading it.

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  16. Lovely review -- I have to confess, when I saw the casting for the film I immediately dismissed the book. But now you have my curiosity piqued!

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  17. When I finished reading this book, I had sooooo much to talk about. It was the kind of book that haunted me for weeks after having finished it. Such an amazing story and I love the way it's paced and drawn out. One of my favourite novels by far.

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  18. I definitely want to check this one out.

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  19. Thanks for the review. I just got this one for one of my 2011 challenges. I was surprised to find this under the dystopia label, and that is why I decided to read it.

    I'm kind of worried that it seems to be slow, but I will make the effort and read it, since most of the reviews are awesome.

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  20. @Jenny - yes, this is the book I was talking about. You really must read it. I can't wait to hear what you think!

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  21. Great review! I'm a patient reader and will give this a second look.

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  22. I just recently read this one as well and thought it was amazing. I SO wanted them to just try to make a run for it and make a life somewhere for themselves! Makes you think about the things in life we just accept....

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  23. Great review of an absolutely amazing book. Really hoping the film does it justice.

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  24. I'm planning to read this next. I have to confess this was very much an impulse buy which I picked up knowing nothing about the plot. Going away for the weekend, may have to pack this to read on the train.

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  25. @Katie - It's really an amazing read! I still think about it now! I'll be sure to watch out for your review. I watched the movie recently and I thought it was really good too, although not as powerful as the book.

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