Skip to main content

Featured Post

Spring means Hope | Weekly Snapshot

Hello you guys! I seem to have forgotten how to blog with everything going on around here. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Hope you all are coping okay?

Last week Things finally got to some semblance of a routine this week and I've been finally feeling better and in charge of my emotional faculties. I've taken over one of the upstairs bedrooms and set it up as my office-cum-homeschool room. In other words, the room is a big mess, but both my daughter and I are able to navigate the room fine as everything in the room has a meaning in our own brains. We're both very organized that way. I've been using a sit-stand desk for my work laptop and I'm a little glad that I got to try this system finally. When I'm not working, I'm helping the girl with her letters, numbers, or fun activities. Trust me, this is difficult but we worked through the system this week, and think we have it under control. My father-in-law watches my son during the day as the little ma…

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go
We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all.

Growing up, Kathy lived at a private boarding school in Hailsham, along with several other students - all secluded from the outside world and made to believe that they were special. Often though, they came across hints that there was more to the picture than met the eye - for instance, when a certain teacher always asserted vehemently that the kids need to know what was coming. Right from the beginning of the book, Kathy, now in her thirties, talked about Donations and recovery centers as if they are the norm, so as the reader, we know there's something not quite right with this world. Kathy is now a "Carer", someone who looks after "Donors", and during her stint as a Carer, she comes across two of her closest friends from school - Ruth and Tommy - from whom she didn't exactly depart on the nicest of terms. But now, she gets an opportunity to fix things while they are dying and during the process, she relives her school days and the things they learned.

Kazuo Ishiguro can certainly write a beautiful hand. Even though I didn't love this book or connect with it, I loved losing myself in the pages and just reading them, no matter what. I have read a short story by Ishiguro a few years back and there is a very detached and dystopian quality to his writing. He revels in the strange world and I have since heard that most of his books are similar so it can get a little tiring reading his books after a few of them. His writing also has a sense of nostalgia, almost as if I, not Kathy, was reliving my memories.

Never Let Me Go is narrated as a series of memories and anecdotes, through a long continuous prose. This style bothered me quite a bit because I couldn't quite understand where the story was going. Besides, I am not a fan of books that have a higher proportion of past experiences versus what is happening in the present. The present is necessary to show how the character has evolved since the events of the past. Kathy spends the first three-quarters of the book sharing her childhood experiences and for the most part, they weren't directed towards understanding their dystopian world. This is where this book differs from most other dystopian novels, in which someone is always trying to beat the system and win their freedom. There is no rebellion here or any major uprising intended to overthrow a corrupt practice. Instead, the characters easily settle into their way of life (they do have some minor quibbles) but a chunk of the story is dedicated to Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy - their dystopian world just happens to be incidental.

When you look at Kathy's world from that perspective, the story feels more purposeful. Kathy and her friends appear as just any other bunch of youngsters. But they have their misunderstandings, and it is at the end of one that Kathy leaves to start her training as a Carer. While at the school, they have frequent exhibitions, where every student puts up something he or she created for sale. Some of these items are taken away by a mysterious Madame and the students all assume that she has a secret Gallery where all those exhibits are stored. It isn't until later in the book that the significance of the Gallery is revisited. But throughout their days at the school, there is no parent or sibling who comes to visit them, they are never taken outside on a field trip, and the school feels as isolated as can be.

There isn't any major moment of revelation when they learn about their place in the world. I did expect a little more fanfare because I am sure if I were one of them, I would be immensely depressed with the news. The characters in Never Let Me Go easily accepted their fate and went about their responsibilities with very little opposition. For this reason, I couldn't care too much about the characters. I spent most of the last quarter of the book questioning the morals of the situation and feeling offended on part of the characters, but Ishiguro stressed more on the triangle relationship of Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth, which I could care very less about.

Ultimately, I was disappointed with this book. The writing made it worth it but the book had a depressing feel around it, even though I couldn't connect with any of the characters. I was honestly fed up of Ruth, and I could never understand why Kathy wanted to stick with her. And while I appreciated that Ishiguro chose to show a world where the victims go with the flow, almost as if they were trained not to oppose, we all know that isn't the way with the real world.

I borrowed this book from the good old library.


Ti Reed said…
Too sterile and the characters seemed wooden to me, especially Kathy. But I think maybe that is what the author was going for. The lack of feeling is significant, I think.

He has a new book coming out in March, The Buried Giant. I was declined for it. I feel like such a winner!!
bermudaonion(Kathy) said…
I need more than beautiful writing so I'll probably skip this even though it's hard to resist a protagonist named Kathy.
Niranjana said…
I'm sort of on an upbeat fiction roll...I think I'll save this one for when I have more energy! --Niranjana @ Brown Paper
Reno said…
Hm, I think I felt the same way when I first read this book...I didn't care for it much. But after watching the film, I read it a second time and I loved it! It's one of my favourites now. I wonder what changed my mind about it.
Techeditor said…
When I read comments from readers of this post, I'm sorry to see that you've turned off many from reading Ishiguro's books. They, including this one, are used in college-level classes. And your analysis Of this book is just just one. I will be at a book event with Kazuo Ishiguro in March at the University of Michigan. I hope people will try his books and see for themselves.
Belle Wong said…
I'm not too sure about this one, but I really want to read The Buried Giant.
Becca said…
I agree with Ishiguro's writing style - it's gorgeous but very detached. I read a collection of his called Nocturnes and that's an excellent way to describe how it felt.
Trish said…
I adore Ishiguro's writing but it is a bit quieter (or as you noted without fanfare). This one didn't strike me quite as much (can't remember why now) but Remains of the Day is one of my favorite books. Last year I loaned it to my dad and was so disappointed when he returned it and basically said "So?" Sigh. Ishiguro is a writer---though sometimes it feels as though something never happens. I will look forward to his new book coming out soon, though!
Care said…
I thought the movie was pretty good. :)
iliana said…
Unfortunately I haven't read this one because when it came out there was so much hype around it that I just put it off. I have really enjoyed a few other of his books and his book, The Remains of the Day is one of my favorite reads. Do you think you'll try to read another of his books?
literaryfeline said…
This is one I want to read, but have not yet. It has sat on my TBR shelf for years now, waiting as patiently as it can for its turn to come. I still want to read it, even after reading your review. It's good to go into it with some understanding of what to expect, I think, at least in this case. Thank you for your thoughtful review, Athira!
Nishita said…
I found the non-rebellion a little strange too, but at the same time the whole story was so moving, that I didn't mind it so much.
Nadia Santos said…
While it's always true that a
great novel will mean different things to each person who reads it, I
believe that this is particularly the case with Never Let Me Go. There
is so much thought-provoking stuff packed inside this relatively short
novel that its title becomes prophetic -- you won't stop thinking about
it for a long while.

View this site for Alaska Bear Viewing trips

Popular posts from this blog

Hell-Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri (Short Fiction Review)

I first read Jhumpa Lahiri years ago, when her Interpreter of Maladies was making a huge buzz. At the time, I didn't catch any of the buzz, but for some reason, when I saw the book on the shelf at the store I was browsing in, I felt it just might be a decent read. Funnily, I read the entire short story collection without complaining about it, but for some reason, I cannot read any collection anymore without agonizing over its disjoint nature.

I did enjoy Interpreter of Maladies, but I did get bothered by the thread of loneliness and infidelity and distrust that laced through the stories. For that reason, I have been reluctant to read Unaccustomed Earth. However, when I came across Hell-Heaven at the NewYorker - a free short story from her book, I decided to go ahead and read it. I can't resist the pull of stories set in India or featuring Indian characters, and it is that same aspect that hooked me throughout this story.

In Hell-Heaven, the narrator contemplates the relations…

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Maybe that’s what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place.
Bernadette Fox has a reputation. While her husband and her daughter Bee love her, there's barely anyone else who share the sentiment. Her neighbor Audrey loves to gossip mean things about her with her close friend, Soo-Lin. The other parents of kids at Bee's school look down on Bernadette because she doesn't involve herself in school affairs. Bernadette herself goes out of her way to avoid company.

And then one day, Bee comes home with an excellent report card and asks for her reward - a family trip to Antarctica. The very plan throws Bernadette into a panic but she has no other option. She hires a virtual assistant, based out of India to take care of all her demands, including getting prescriptions at her local pharmacy, doing her online shopping and taking care of some of the logistics of her trip. (It is ridiculous! Bern…

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (Short Fiction review)

With the Hunger Games hype that engulfed us last week, it was hard to avoid all the discussion of similar works that existed. Of the many titles that I came across, two stood out particularly - a short story called The Lottery and a Japanese novel (and movie) called Battle Royale (which I'm reading right now and just cannot put down). The novel will be fodder for another post, so for now, I just want to rave about the awesomeness that was The Lottery.

In contemporary America, villagers across the country are gathering on the 27th of June (and some a day earlier) for an annual event called the Lottery. Children, women, men, all come to the main square of their village or town, where the lottery master keeps a black box full of paper chips. One of these chips is marked has a special mark on it to identify the winner (the person who draws that chip). Not everyone draws however, but only the head of the family. Husbands are viewed as the head of their families/households, and if the …