Friday, April 07, 2006

06.14 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Hardcover, Knopf 2005

Things have been a little slow here at 50 Books Central but I am starting to get back in to the flow.

The only prior knowledge that I had of Ishiguro's work was having seen the film Remains Of The Day quite a few years ago. I appreciated the restrained use of the typical British reserve combined with a certain depth of emotion but I had little interest in exploring further this author's work. The reason I took a chance with this book was that it had been written he had used some conventions of speculative fiction in the novel.

The story is told from the first person of Kathy H, a young woman initially enrolled in what appears to be a stereotypical British boarding school. Her story flashes back and forth from her perspective as a young adult through her school years. Primarily, it concerns her interactions and relationship with two of her closest friends at Hailsham, the school. The boarding school is fairly representative of what you might expect at first. The teachers are refered to as Guardians and the syllabus seems strongly devoted to artistic studies. Over time you come to realize (as do the children) that the students are being specially groomed for a what they call a "donation". They are kept from any contact with the outside world and many cryptic hints and rumours abound as to what their eventual fate will be. This atmosphere ultimately creates a student who is emotionally repressed and naive yet perfectly willing to be subjected to a fate over which they have no control.

You will note that I have been dancing around explicitly outlining what the true purpose of these kids is. Most reviews I've read give away this plot point but I think that coming across it oneself in the narrative makes the book much better even though the issue is used only peripherally.

Ishiguro uses a style of writing that, while driving the narrative along, seemed somewhat clunky to me. He flits from anecdote to anecdote by ending a paragraph or chapter with something along the lines of "I'm looking at them in the light of what came later - particularly what happened that day at the pavilion while we were sheltering from the downpour." And then on we go to the tale of that day. Perhaps clunky is the wrong word but at the very least it becomes repetitive.

In the end though, I really became caught up in the small yet complex emotional difficulties that the characters are forced in to because of their unique role in society. The author writes confidently and skillfully. It is a novel that would be well suited towards a discussion group or a book club if that is your thing.


beemused said...

The first review I read gave away the purpose of what the children were being groomed for, but by the same token, that's what made me curious about the book in the first place.

Otherwise, I've never been really drawn to Ishiguro's books before.

Buzby said...

I have read Remains of the Day but have never made it throug another of his books. You are right about his writing style, maybe not klunky, but it is not quite as welcoming as it could be.

Olman Feelyus said...

I too have read only Remains of the Day. I was hoping for a rich look at the relationship between the butler and the master, sort of a serious Wooster & Jeeves and that's sort of what I got but it was a bit more personal and melancholy (and maybe that is what a serious W & J would be) than what I would have found enjoyable. When I start to read english books again, I will pick this up in time, though. I like the idea of the world from the (spoiler) point of view and your review makes it sound like I too would enjoy getting caught up in the minutae.