Monday, February 20, 2012

Never Let Me Go

Most of the books I read could be compared to junk food. Light, sweet affairs which dissolve quickly and let me rant excitedly about, whether I love them or hate them. Though I don't see myself trending towards the classics anytime soon, it really felt good to read a real piece of literature, which is what Never Let Me Go is. And I feel like unlike the sugary books I more often read, I will be digesting this one for the rest of my life.

I believe Emma was curious about whether this book would have been better if the overall concept and storyline hadn't already been spoiled for her before she started reading it. I did not know the book's concept before I started reading, and I believe it did in fact make my experience more powerful.

The deftness with which Kazuo Ishiguro weaves his narrative defies description. Suffice it to say, he manages to tell you what he is doing to you, the reader, directly without you even realizing it until it is too late. You are already trapped in the narrative related by this book's main character, Kathy and you are doomed to experience the book as if it were your own past.

The book explores regret, tragedy and interpersonal relationships. Growing apart and of life and of death. Its varied characters ooze humanity and every single one of them is engaging.

The book is not entirely without flaw, and I would feel remiss to not mention where I saw them. The climax of the book involves a final set of revelations which seem to fall short of explanaing a few of the later plot developments, but upon further reflection this sort of ties back to the theme the book strives for, of good things coming to an end and of tragic unfairness brought on by unthinking apathy and selfishness. A stronger reason here very well could have undermined the power of this book, but I felt unstatisfied. That very well could have been the point.

Second, there is another instance of anti-intellectuallism on display, although this one is so incredibly slight that you could be forgiven for missing it. I just have a problem with the default assumption that somehow the people who dedicate their lives to medicine must be total inhuman monsters, and that somehow science inherently requires and benefits from dehumanization. Again, this bias is incredibly slight, practically an offhand comment or two just a few times in the whole book.

Final and most egregious is that there is no resistance to the events depicted. I could not believe that these characters would act so passively in reaction to what they experience. I can't help but think this must be a product of the difference between my culture as an American and the culture of the writer as British and Japanese. It might be my biased perspective, but it almost seems like characters are resigned to inaction because they don't want to be in defiance of any rules... that they don't want to rock the boat or inconvenience anyone else. Again, it could be merely a product of my different cultural perspective, but the placidity was the only thing these characters had which wasn't completely, spellbindingly human to me.

This is a singularly good book. It would not be hyperbole to say this book changed my perspective on life itself and I truly thank Emma for leading me to it. 5/5

1 comment:

  1. This book reads too much like the latest M Night Shyamalan script, albeit far better written. I can only imagine enjoying it if someone hadn't tried to sell me on it as speculative fiction, one of my favorite genres!

    I would have definitely recommended it to anybody that doesn't identify as an SF-fan, however. It's kinda like SF-lite, even lighter than Neil Gaiman, somehow.

    I'd be willing to write this off as a case where the author is trying his hand at a genre that he's unfamiliar with, and I've always been curious to check out another book of his but couldn't bring myself to because of this book's disappointment!

    Also, the characters' passivity is absolutely intentional. Despite being ethnically Japanese, Ishiguro is 100% English, and his characters are written as shockingly accurate British people.

    PS: I love your reviews for containing things like "I was disappointed by the book's failure to explain plot inconsistencies, but that might have been the point" because they're SO YOU. Please review more books, haha!


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