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Never Let Me Go Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 5, 2005
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All children should believe they are special. But the students of Hailsham, an elite school in the English countryside, are so special that visitors shun them, and only by rumor and the occasional fleeting remark by a teacher do they discover their unconventional origins and strange destiny. Kazuo Ishiguro's sixth novel, Never Let Me Go, is a masterpiece of indirection. Like the students of Hailsham, readers are "told but not told" what is going on and should be allowed to discover the secrets of Hailsham and the truth about these children on their own.
Offsetting the bizarreness of these revelations is the placid, measured voice of the narrator, Kathy H., a 31-year-old Hailsham alumna who, at the close of the 1990s, is consciously ending one phase of her life and beginning another. She is in a reflective mood, and recounts not only her childhood memories, but her quest in adulthood to find out more about Hailsham and the idealistic women who ran it. Although often poignant, Kathy's matter-of-fact narration blunts the sharper emotional effects you might expect in a novel that deals with illness, self-sacrifice, and the severe restriction of personal freedoms. As in Ishiguro's best-known work, The Remains of the Day, only after closing the book do you absorb the magnitude of what his characters endure. --Regina Marler
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School–The elegance of Ishiguro's prose and the pitch-perfect voice of his narrator conspire to usher readers convincingly into the remembered world of Hailsham, a British boarding school for special students. The reminiscence is told from the point of view of Kathy H., now 31, whose evocation of the sheltered estate's sunlit rolling hills, guardians, dormitories, and sports pavilions is imbued with undercurrents of muted tension and foreboding that presage a darker reality. As an adult, Kathy re-engages in lapsed friendships with classmates Ruth and Tommy, examining the details of their shared youth and revisiting with growing awareness the clues and anecdotal evidence apparent to them even as youngsters that they were different from everyone outside. [...] Ishiguro conveys with exquisite sensitivity the emotional texture of the threesome's relationship, their bonds of personal loyalty that overcome fractures of trust, the palpable boundaries of hope, and the human capacity for forgiveness. Highly recommended for literary merit and as an exceptional platform for the discussion of a controversial topic.–Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA
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Top Customer Reviews
What is unique about the novel? It has a "Kafkaesque" aspect to it. There are some bizarre issues that go completely unexplained. But at the same time, it is less stark and more human than some of Kafka's works. It seems dystopian, but still, at times, has a strong sense of humanity. There is a lot of very nuanced aspects of relationships that put me in mind of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenia", strictly within the aspect of nuanced relationships. In a manner of speaking, this is also a "coming of age" novel, and in that context, reminded me of "A Separate Peace", which has little or no sexuality involved.
I read this book on Kindle while, at the same time, listening to it on audiobook. The narrator was Rosalyn Landor. She was excellent and this added to my enjoyment of the book.
The novel made me think about ethical issues that we could all be facing in the not too distant future. The book is very human as it really illuminates the souls and humanity of many of the characters, when it is clear that it may be more expedient not to think of these individuals as real people at all. This is the first work I had ever read by Katzuo Ishiguro. I have already purchased another novel of his. I am very glad I had a chance to read this book. Thank You...
That said, I found the tone of the book, reading it instead of listening to it, quite somber. Slightly depressing. But still engrossing. (I purchased this for my Kindle recently, so I'm reading it again as opposed to listening to the audio version, and it seems more bleak).
In short, I feel it is well written, there is a little bit of suspense, and well-developed characters that keep the unusual book going at a decent pace. There are a lot of allusions, because the main character is often talking about the past, so she doesn't quite remember everything exactly and doesn't quite know what to make of things because she sees things differently as she matures. It's interesting to read her thought processes.
This is a tricky book to review. I didn't mind the plot and I was somewhat moved by the story. It is a credit to Ishiguro that the real strength of the book was the complex and meaningful relationships between the characters. For example, Ruth-Tommy-Kathys' relationship was powerful and moving because it very much mirrored the relationships that many young adults and teenagers have. This relationship was portrayed (in a realistic fashion) as being complex and messy, just like many "coming of age" relationships are.
So, why the low review? Well, I guess I just have to come out and say it.....the whole cloning/sci-fi/dystopian England aspect (dare I say theme?) of the book really diminished from the overall quality of the story. The strength of the book, in my opinion, was the aforementioned relationships between the characters. And while the cloning bit did provide an interesting backdrop for the story, it also detracted from the characters (what I mean is that at times I found myself engrossed by the characters and their actions....only to have a somewhat clumsy reminder that they are clones and this is a "fake" England--which in turn ruined the realism of the relationships and caused me to "put distance" between myself and the characters).
Finally, and this is perhaps my most serve critique of the cloning/dystopian elements of the book, there was a head-scratching lack of fight against "fate" by the characters. For example, why didn't anyone (including Kathy) try and "escape"? Why was that option not even discussed? The characters were hoping to get a deferral....but they weren't willing to try and disappear or flee to another country? Seriously, I'm not saying there needed to be a big flight but the sad, resigned-to-fate actions of the characters really just seemed lazy and frankly inhuman. This, more than anything, really highlighted to me the flaw with including the cloning aspect of the story. I'm not against making the characters clones but it just would have made more sense to me that if Ishiguro was going to develop their human traits that he would have developed all the traits--including considering the possibility of seeking a different fate. This was especially puzzling because the characters would discuss their futures if they could have "normal" lives (example--Ruth talking about working in an office somewhere).
As a result, the book just felt uneven and left me unsatisfied. I'm not saying I need an action story but I do need some sort of explanation for actions!
But I am very impressed by how well the story is laid out. I truly appreciate the delicate manner in which the overall theme of the book is presented to the reader. I think that this book is a triumph in the tug-of-war that is adolescence and how much we are able to see through the eyes of the author.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was very close to a 5 star read for me, but for some reason I cannot shake the passive aggressiveness of the main character.Read more