I read this book for the 1% Well-Read Challenge (yay, I can mark off the FIRST book on the 1001 books spreadsheet!! um, not MY first book) as well as the End of the World Challenge. After reading it, I’m not convinced that it entirely fits into the category of End of the World or even necessarily as a dystopian novel as I thought I had read somewhere, but some of my apprehension could be because of the mysterious way in which the novel was written (which also makes it difficult for me to write my thoughts without giving away plot).
In Never Let Me Go, the narrator, Kathy H. takes a retrospective look at her adolescent years at Hailsham, a type of home or boarding school for children who will one day be carers and donors. Kathy reminisces about the teachers, the sales where the students could find unusual items, the different groups of friends, cliques, and clubs, and especially Kathy remembers her relationship to Ruth and Tommy–other students at Hailsham. After the students leave Hailsham, she also talks about how their relationships continued to developed when they lived together at The Cottages in the few years before they met their destinies as carers and donors.
It doesn’t sound like much, and to be honest it isn’t. When I read The Remains of the Day a few months ago the word “quiet” kept popping up when I wanted to describe the book. I would describe this book in much the same way–very quiet. Throughout the novel–really until the last couple of chapters–the reader doesn’t get a very clear picture of what it means to be a donor or a carer and what it is these children will grow up to become. Even when Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are adults it isn’t clear what their roles in society are. Ishiguro, however, through all of his subtlety keeps the pages turning almost in a way that is gripping. I clung on to each little piece of information that was divulged and each conversation between the characters that shed a little bit of light on who/what they were.
One thing that bothered me a little bit about the book (and maybe just because I’m impatient–especially this week) is that reading Kathy’s narrative was a little like sitting with an old lady who wants to tell you everything about her life but does so in a roundabout tangential way. Kathy was continually saying she wanted to talk about something specifically but would take pages to actually get to her point because she would find herself discussing something else in order to get there. Very circular, but this disappeared near the middle of the book.
Ishiguro is a crafty author of character development, but for some reason I can’t figure out what exactly it is that makes his books so compelling–the language is simple, the plots are incredibly mundane, but somehow he finds a way to dissect humanity without being pushy or showy. I would recommend this book, but I did like The Remains of the Day better. Part of this could be because I am exhausted mentally and physically from several weeks of GoGoGo and so it was easy with this book for me to read but not really read (which meant I had to do some re-reading).
Also reviewed by: (Let me know if I’ve missed your review)
Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading
Joy at Thoughts of Joy
Mrs. S at 50 Book Challenge
Jeane at Dog Ear Diary
Verbivore from Incurable Logophilia
Ramya at Ramya’s Bookshelf