Sunday, July 20, 2008

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Date Finished: July 20, 2008 #41
Pages: 288
Rating: 3.75/5

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


Nymeth said...

It's too bad this one didn't live up to The Remains of the Day, but that would be very hard, wouldn't it? I really like what you said about how he dissects humanity without being pushy or showy. I'm looking forward to eventually reading this one.

Bookfool said...

I haven't gotten to this one, but it's on my Someday I Must Read This list. Nymeth is so right -- it would be really difficult to live up to The Remains of the Day.

Ramya said...

i like your review of the book.. i read this book a couple of years ago and i really liked the way i was hooked to the book in spite of not really knowing too much about what was happening..
my review for the book is here:

Laura said...

For some reason, the girl on the front cover gives me the creeps! I'm curious about this book, but now I want to go read your review of The Remains of the Day!

Sometimes I wonder how much the "GoGoGo" parts in life affect how much or little we enjoy what we are reading?

verbivore said...

I've never read Remains of the Day but have it on my shelf. I'd like to read it this summer while Never Let Me Go is still fresh in my mind.

Mrs S said...

Hi Trish - this is a really good review of Never Let Me Go. I enjoyed the book - and luckily a friend had warned me that it was a quiet book with not much happening - I found I couldn't put it down.

I found a copy of Remains in the cupboard when I was having a clear out last week so I'll be sure to add that onto the TBR stack!

Stephanie said...

So far, this is the only Ishiguro I have read. And I really enjoyed it, even as weird as it was!!

Debi said...

I have this one on my list for the Japanese Literature Challenge. You've left me looking forward to it more than ever, and at the same time left me wishing I'd put The Remains of the Day on my list instead.

mee said...

I've read this one too and I quite enjoyed it. My review here:

Remains of the Days is on my shelf, waiting to be read :)

Trish said...

*Nymeth - this was a very interesting read, but ultimately I just didn't find out everything I wanted to by the end of the book! I think that was the point, but I really wanted more.

*Bookfool - A lot of people really really like this book, but this book is very different from Remains. Maybe it is just a matter of preferences. I hope you get to it one day!

*Ramya - I was hooked to this book as well--especially since I didn't know what was going on all the way up until the end. Thanks for the review.

*Laura - The book is very creepy in a way! I haven't quite figured out who the girl on the book is supposed to be. I guess the main character as a child?

In terms of the GoGoGo, this book was really easy to be reading while not comprehending, which probably didn't make it a good tired week read--I'm sure I missed out on some parts because my eyes were so glazed over!

*Verbivore - I would highly recommend Remains of the Day--especially if you really liked this one. I look forward to hearing what you think!

Trish said...

*Mrs. S - If you liked this one then definitely read Remains as well! It is very different in subject manner and also pretty "quiet" but worth the read!

*Stephanie - It was very weird and creepy! Not really at all what I was expecting.

*Debi - They're both good--so don't regret your decision! Just put Remains on another challenge. :)

*Mee - Glad you enjoyed it and hope you can read Remains soon!

Dar said...

Hey Trish, I nominated you for an award. I can't figure out linking in comments so here's the link:

Joy said...

We are close in our ratings; I gave it a 4/5. What I remember most is that it was peculiar and I always wanted more information. I plan to read another Ishiguro - mainly because I find his writing unusually gripping. I wonder if Ishiguro is peculiar. :)

Literary Feline said...

Ishiguro is on my must read author list. I have a couple of his books sitting here waiting to be read. I am drawn in particular to your description of the author's writing in your final paragraph. Thanks for another great review!

Trish said...

*Dar - Thank you so much!!! You've totally made my day. :)

*Joy - Ha ha--even at the end of the book I wanted more information! I really wanted to know more about the donations and how this affected the outside society in addition to the society of donors. Yes, I am really liking Ishiguro and his peculiarities.

*Lit Feline - What are you waiting for? :) I think you'll like his writing and books!

Bellezza said...

You know, you could count this as one of your Japanese literature reads,'s only 10 days away. :)

Kristi said...

This one is on my TBR pile, too. I read Remains a long time ago and we seem to have the same taste in books (and challenges ;o)). I always enjoy reading your reviews, so I wanted to pass on a couple of bloggy awards to you ;o). Happy reading!

Trish said...

*Bellezza - I didn't consider it for the challenge since his nationality is British (even though he was born in Japan). I haven't made my post yet, but my selections are going to be Snow Country, Kafka on the Shore, and another random one I picked up on whim--Mistress Oriku: Tales from a Tokyo Teahouse.

*Kristi - Thanks for coming by (and commenting--you never know whos reading if they don't comment!). Even though this one is very different, I think if you like Remains you'll like this one as well.

Anonymous said...

I reviewed Never Let Me Go for the 1% Well Read challenge in June, and thought it was excellent. I'd never read Ishiguro before, so it nice to find something so well-written awaiting me. I'd agree that Ishiguro is excellent at getting to the heart of what really makes us as humans act the way we do.

I enjoyed your review! You can find mine at Reading and Ruminations

Trish said...

*Shootingstarr - Thanks for coming by! I'm glad you enjoyed this one--I would also recommend The Remains of the Day by Ishiguro. It is also a very subtle book but well worth the read.

Arukiyomi said...

If you're interested, there's a brand new improved edition of Arukiyomi's 1001 books spreadsheet available at Arukiyomi's blog for you to chart your progress with both the old and new lists.

Bad news though, this book has been removed. Remains of the Day was retained and, if you haven't read it, I strongly recommend you do.

For more info and a free download click HERE

Happy reading!

Trish said...

*Arukiyomi - Boo!! Looks like a lot of the ones I've read have been taken off! And some that I've read have been added. I guess it all works out--we can't expect to have the same 1001 books from here on out! And THANK YOU THANK YOU for making the spreadsheet. I love it!