Monday 15 July 2013

Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

For the Eclectic Reader challenge I needed to read a dystopian novel. I chose Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go because I heard about its science fiction element and was intrigued to see how its dystopian world would be created on the page. 

Never Let Me Go follows the lives of three children - Kathy, Tommy and Ruth - as they grow together at an English boarding school and then on into adulthood. They do not live normal lives, however, as a terrible fate awaits them. The book is narrated by Kathy and slowly reveals the sci-fi element that shadows, influences, and ultimately destroys these young people.

The book is one long run-on memory. Kathy looks back over her life and the events that have stayed with her, the ones that influenced who she turned out to be, the moments that saw her shift from a child to a teenager to an adult. It's a book full of Kathy's inner life; it's her reminiscing and coming to realisations that she missed the first time around because she wasn't mature enough or knowledgable enough to see things clearly when they happened. We meet the rest of the characters only through Kathy's memory. Tommy is thoughtful and kind, but I did not like Ruth at all. She is manipulative and it infuriated me that Kathy herself seemed to hardly notice Ruth's true nature.

I found reading this book hard going, and not just because of the dystopian subject matter. The book is written in a strange style - it's an entire narrative of introspection. It does get a bit repetitive at times as Kathy is constantly trying to make sense of everything that happened to her and she often goes back over events in far too much detail. Ishiguro does succeed in portraying the oppressed and restricted life of Kathy, but I wasn't a big fan of his style of writing.

The sci-fi element of the book was quite subtle, even though it was always hanging around in the background. It soon becomes obvious that Kathy and her friends are little more than lab rats, but I never really came to understand the gritty details of how this process works. Ishiguro's narrative is so focussed on Kathy's thoughts and her perspective on the actions of herself and others, that the science behind their lives takes a backseat.

The book's blurb mentions a love triangle which does occur, but the book is actually about a lot more than that. It's about human rights. It asks the question - if your life is predestined should you be allowed to live a normal life up until your destiny is fulfilled? Never Let Me Go is a complex story with a harsh theme on the fragility of life and the power that others can hold over us. It's also a tragic story of lost opportunities. All in all, a very sad book indeed.

1 comment:

  1. I feel like I *should* read this - but I know I never will. Just not my thing

    Thanks for sharing your review

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out