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Never Let Me Go Paperback – 2005
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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.
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.
Movie aside, here's what the book does well: the first thing to notice is the voice of the narrator Kathy. They actually capture her kind of sedate, placid narration well in the movie too but her round about narration of the events invites you to join her ranks as someone who is "told but not told," although since you're the reader you are the whole time wondering what the mystery is. In contrast, the characters of the book don't wonder so much about the mystery of their lives so much as the question of whether or not they're able to just delay their doom.
Unlike many dystopian stories that invite us to compare the main injustice of the society with injustices occurring in our current society, the emphasis on this book seems to be the reaction of the clones in this book to their destinies. What I mean is that normally in a dystopian story the thing that makes it dystopian, the idea of cloning someone and taking their organs, or the idea of editing people's use of language (1984), is the main point of the book, telling us we should look in our own society for places of exploitation of some small group of people for the benefit of the majority, or for censure, etc. I didn't get that from this book at all, which surprised my expectations of the dystopian genre. It seemed like the clone thing was thematically irrelevant and distracting, a red herring for the main point, which is that people miss out on chances to love, and there's always a sense of loss, especially lost time, lost love, and people hope to just delay that loss but they don't fight its inevitability. Ruth was excellently drawn and her land-mine filled dialogues with everyone revealed Ishiguro's understanding of the subtly mean, jealous aspects of human nature. The portrayal of Tommy was confusing and weird. He seemed like an autistic, unknowable ghost until Garfield brought him to life in the movie. I get the sense that Ishiguro is obsessed with the idea of love that is lost for no good reason, because people are too weak or fearful or docile to go for it, that Tommy as a character made so little sense because Ishiguro didn't really have a concrete object in mind for his lost love, just the idea that it was missing. In the movie they include a scene where Tommy begins to scream and I think this makes a lot of sense in terms of finally acknowledging the injustice of the clone thing but this whole closure is absent from the book. Anyway I'd recommend the book for anyone who wants to keep on top of what's hot in literature these days.
This book is fantastic. It can be interpreted in many different ways, but in my opinion it is a story about coming to terms with your life and your own mortality. It is NOT a sci-fi book in the usual sense of the genre. It is also NOT a book strictly about the ethics of cloning. Many negative reviewers seemed to be looking for a book exclusively about those themes, but really they just set the background for the novel. It is a story about love, heartbreak, coming of age, and coming to terms with the limits of our own life. If you just want a sci-fi book about futuristic cloning scenarios you will be disappointed.
Overall, the story is done well. Did I feel like I chewed through it and wanted more? Not really.