Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

10 Aug

Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars

Who will like it best: Women and Men 20+ and experienced readers

Words to describe it: Thought-provoking, literary, serious

Will I add it to my personal library? Yes

Will I read it again? Maybe

This book has shown up on many reading blogs and conversations I’ve seen over the past year so I put it on my TBR list several months ago.  I finally selected it because I read the movie based on this book is being released later this year.

I didn’t actually know too much about the book’s plot beforehand which I actually think enhanced my reading experience.  I recommend that everyone read this book without knowing the synopsis in detail.  Trust me!  In fact, I’m skipping the entire Synopsis section of this review for that reason!

Here’s what you do need to know about it:

  • It’s told in the first person by a woman named Kathy H. reflecting on her time away in boarding school.
  • It can be read by both men and women (it’s not chick lit).
  • It deals with ethical social dilemmas.
  • It is perfect for a book club and required high school reading – you will want to have someone to discuss it with.

My Review

As I mentioned above, this novel stuck with me for a while after I finished it.  It did so for two reasons:  First of all, its uniqueness has taken some time to process.  I keep going back to the details of the book and reflecting on them – why was something a certain way, why was something else a certain way.  Secondly, I cannot decide if I should rate it as a 5!  The coveted 5 rating means I will want to read it again someday and will recommend it to my friends as a ‘must read’.  I’m not positive I feel that way on either count.  This book was pretty dry.  I understand that if I’m still thinking about it, it is a good piece of literary fiction.  I loved the journalistic style of the writing.  The author did a great job of giving Kathy and all of the characters an almost child-like perspective into adulthood, because of their very limited experiences.  The descriptions were detailed and interesting.  I thought the concept for this book was ingenious.  The book unfolded properly for me (because I didn’t know what it was about) which added to the overall impact. And ultimately the social and ethical questions this book poses are important to think about.

But, on the other hand I really did feel like I just needed a bit more.  Of something.  Maybe?  I’m not even sure myself anymore!  I think I could have used more background about the world outside of Halisham.  I had trouble understanding what Ruth’s deal was.  And I didn’t get Tommy’s animals either (I mean I understood his theory but not why he chose animals and why they were so good).  Lastly, I think the wrap-up at the end (after meeting with Madame) was a bit too short – I felt like the characters deserved a less abrupt conclusion.   I wonder if me having those questions actually is a positive for this novel though – again, it’s making me think.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  Besides all that, though, I don’t think that this book is for everyone.  This is a great fit for readers who like to reflect on what they’ve read and discuss it, but some might find it dry or too serious to be read for entertainment.

Summary

After much deliberation I’ve decided to rate this book a 5 out of 5 stars, even though earlier in my review I wasn’t sure I would consider it a ‘Must Read.’.  I decided that I do think everyone should read it, because it is simply an awesome work of art.  It’s really brilliant.  It has thoughtfully designed characters and a unique approach to ethical issues.  It might not seem fast-paced enough for some, but I think it is still worth it.  I suspect this book might end up as required high-school reading too.

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3 Responses to “Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro”

  1. Lisa August 30, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

    Been a few hours since I finished this morning on the plane and I still think it’s perhaps the saddest book I’ve ever read. Why didn’t they leave? Go – escape, run away. It didn’t seem as if they were that closely monitored. Yet they didn’t, they chose to stay knowing what was coming and to me that is so terribly sad. They were like lambs to the slaughter, just blithely ambling on. Or are they heroes for just that same reason?

    And then there are the ethical aspects which are horrifying, I think the worst was when they let on about what could possibly happen if a doner didn’t “complete” on the 4th donation. Oh, man….the implications are awful. And frankly, it’s not that far out of the realm of possibility – we tread that fine line pretty nimbly from time to time.

    Can’t decide how this will play out in movie format. I think what makes the story is what’s unsaid, just implied, and that doesn’t often play out well on screen. I think they may have to give too much up and that will wreck it.

    On now to “Little Bee”. Excited to hear what you think of “The Passage”.

    • Karen September 7, 2010 at 4:18 pm #

      Lisa, I’m just catching up after being on vacation. I agree, this novel is completely sad! I think that they never ran away because part of their Training at Hailsham was brainwashing…what do you think? As if they were conditioned to believe this was the best they could do for the human race, this was their lot in life, etc. etc. I didn’t really see them being angry or desperate – aside from some particualr outbursts, they seemed fairly okay with the whole thing.

      I also think that the cloning thing was portrayed pretty realistically if it were to really happen. But I cannot imagine any country leader even trying to suggest something like that so I don’t think it will ever happen. Right?

      The Passage is collecting dust right now. I’m hoping to pick it up soon. I’m totally intimiated because it’s like a billion pages long and there’s so much detail!

      • Lisa September 8, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

        Well, I’m not really sure why they just accepted their fate without rebellion. Perhaps that’s part of the whole situation with Miss Lucy, she wanted to tell them more so that they would rebel. But obviously they were aware that there were people out there who were not doners or carers, I mean the whole bit about Ruth fanasizing about working in an open plan office (which made me laugh as I can attest that it’s NOT what she imagined it to be!!) – she was sad that she knew that this would never be her. I guess maybe if you were never told that you had an option to run, you wouldn’t consider it.

        You know, I bet you that in 1930, most people polled would say that no world leader would ever try to systematically eradicate an entire race of people because he felt them to be inferior. So never say never I guess. I’d like to think that as a civilized people, a situation like this would never happen, but we push the ethical boundaries every day. First they clone a sheep, and the world gasps. But now, livestock are cloned all the time and now they can’t say for sure if any cloned livestock has entered the food chain. And no one thinks this is a problem – there’s no great outcry. Yet raise the price of gas so that little Jimmy can’t afford to drive his armored Hummer to the tattoo parlor and whoa – something’s gotta be done about this! It’s an outrage, a travesty!

        Sheesh, I’m sounding like a glass is half empty type of girl. Really I’m not!

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