Saturday, 21 March 2015

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Never Let Me Go follows the life of three students from Hailsham: Kathy, Tommy and Ruth.  Over the course of the book, we learn from the narrator Kathy more about their relationships with each other and the purpose of their life.  Having seen all the hype about Kazuo Ishiguro's writings, which has resurfaced with his new book The Buried Giant, I wanted to see if Kazuo Ishiguro was as good as people said.  As this book was also listed for the Classics Club it naturally made perfect sense to add this to the TBR list.  This book was definitely hard to put down; when I came away from the audiobook I was left wondering what Kathy would be up to next.  Having finished it, I was left feeling sad, not in the teary sense but in way sad-confused-bereft way (don't worry, I detest spoilers so there will be none on this blog).

I am Keanu sad.

Although Never Let Me Go is divided into Childhood, Adult and Donor it is not exactly chronological.  This created a really enjoyable feel to the book.  Like Kathy, we gain fragments of knowledge that we slowly try to piece together.  We are both told about something before we understand what it means. (What is the "gallery" or "donation"?)  If you want to understand terms being used etc. then we have to carry on, just like Kathy, Tommy and Ruth.  For some reason, this book reminds me of Brave New World in reverse.  At the beginning, we have learn all about the 'science' that the society uses (e.g. how people are made etc.) and later branch into the learning about the characters and morality (or ethical questions for the philosophy purists).  Never Let Me Go tells us about the characters and then goes into the societies science and the ethics of it.  (I think the questions of ethics have a quiet force - they are not blatantly asked in your face, but more suggested in the subtext.)  There is also a nice romantic subplot, which some of you may be able to guess.

Mortality is another theme within this book.  Again, I am blighted by the risk of spoilers so I will keep it specifically vague.  If you do read it (which I highly recommend) maybe you will pick up on why I am writing what I am.  It will be my birthday soon and I can't help but think that if I was born 200 years ago or more, I would most likely be halfway through my life by now which is quite a scary thought.  I am very grateful I was born in the 1990s.  I saw myself making comparisons between Kathy and myself; I was frequently asking myself "is this true for me too?"  This book reminds me how important it is to take the chances that we can, to not waste what time we have.  

Caption "The Bitterness of Mortality"
Without life, I would not be able to watch the Lord of the Rings

There has been a lot of controversy over the genre of this work.  
"Ishiguro compared the reception of his new novel to his 2005 dystopian parable Never Let Me Go, which had critics and readers alike debating its genre classification. “I think genre rules should be porous, if not nonexistent. All the debate around Never Let Me Go was, ‘is it sci-fi or is it not?’”" - Source: The Guardian.
I normally label book reviews with both genres and themes.  I think books should be defined by its themes but we shouldn't get too hung up by a label.  For me, a good book makes a lasting impression and makes me think about something (either in a new light or about something I never considered before).  This book definitely makes you think... think about our actions, the chance to love and the immanence of death.  I will not give too much away, but the novel did make me think about how we treat people, animals and the environment as a society.  Should we just trust that other people treat things with respect?  Or, should we actively make sure, step out of the ignorance and do our best to make life as comfortable for every being as we can?

Kerry Fox is a really good narrator, you could easily believe that Fox was Kathy.  In many ways, if you closed your eyes you could imagine someone sitting opposite you at a pub table telling you this story as though it was real.  Her acting range is impressive; her voices for each character are memorable, identifiable and consistent.  When Fox speaks with disdain it reminds me of Benedict Cumberbatch which is a testament of her acting.  I also have two new Audible badges:  'On The Trot' (listened for 7 days in row) and 'The Annotator' Silver (placed at least 40 bookmarks).

Feels full of disdain, patronising, like someone should not be in Sherlock's presence.
Want some ice for that burn?


Overall, this was a really enjoyable and unique read.  I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Kazuo Ishiguro.


Book Facts
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 288
My Edition: Audible
Narrator: Kerry Fox
Production date: 2014 (Canongate Faber Audio)
Length: 9 hours 26 mins
Cover:
Young girl turns quickly, it is dizzying and confusing. Who is she? How old is she? What is she doing?

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