Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genres: Contemporary, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Format: Audiobook (Audible)
Narrator: Rosalyn Landor
Length: 09 hrs and 46 mins
Book Club Pick: Nerds Read Books (part of The OC Young, Fun and Nerdy Meetup)

My Ranking:

From the acclaimed author of The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, a moving new novel that subtly reimagines our world and time in a haunting story of friendship and love.

As a child, Kathy – now thirty-one years old – lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed – even comforted – by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.

A tale of deceptive simplicity, Never Let Me Go slowly reveals an extraordinary emotional depth and resonance – and takes its place among Kazuo Ishiguro’s finest work.

Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this book. Its "deceptive simplicity" did not resonate with me. It had the opposite effect; it completely turned me off. After finishing the story, I felt like this was one of those books that people read because of its reputation. It was a book club choice; definitely not something I would have picked up on my own.

What contributed most to my overall dislike of the story was the choice of narrator, Kathy, and the style of her narration, which was disconnected to the extreme! Kathy was never "in" her story -- her own life story! She spent every minute of her life watching the world and the people around her, but never fully interacted or connecting with anyone. I couldn't believe she was ever really friends with Ruth, and I don't believe she ever had one inkling of a feeling for Tommy as a child, teen or an adult.

Kathy never expressed any true feelings other than being annoyed by Ruth not remembering details of their life at Hailsham, being angered by Ruth's exaggerations and feeling sorry for Tommy having been bullied. Other than that, she doesn't express much of anything. Especially not a true fondness for Tommy or Ruth. I found it quite interesting how often Kathy's narration repeated phrases like "what you really have to understand is ..."; it's almost like she knew that she'd have to emphasize the situation or the purpose of what she sharing otherwise the importance would be lost completely. And to that, I say, why should I care? If you have to tell me why it's important, and not show me, why even bother reading the story? What am I supposed to get out of this narrative if it's being told like a lecture and the lecturer has to say "take note of this important fact" every so often. Shouldn't I be able to experience this through reading the story? That's the way it happens in pretty much all other books.

I could breakdown the story and talk about all the things that bothered me. But I won't do that; I will just focus on the biggest. The most disturbing thing about this book was the sense of defeat in every single clone. No one rebelled. No one had hope. Not even the kids from Hailsham who were "special". They all grew up, contemplated a better life and succumbed to the same fate. One after the other. The only thing that changed from person to person was when they actually began donations.

I suppose this acceptance of their fate was due to the environment they were raised in. They never had a chance. Even the "special" kids from Hailsham. And they were only given  one gift - a childhood - before they too met their early demise. There were never any deferrals, the "Gallery" was a fail, and everyone who fought for their better treatment of clones didn't really believe their humanity was there to begin with. So in the end, both the program and Hailsham end. There's nothing beautiful about this; it's depressing.

After learning this, I was praying a better end for Kathy But, alas, her fate is the same as everyone else. Only, she's was lucky enough to get to watch almost all of the people in her life die, or "complete". And the last revelation we're left with is the happy note that Kathy is to begin donations and she too will eventually "complete". The end?!?!

I enjoyed Rosalyn Landor's narration of this book. I think she did a great job conveying the bleakness and hopelessness of this story.

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