Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review : Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.

[Source: library]

I decided to read Never Let Me Go after seeing a trailer for the movie and hearing wonderful things about the book. I wanted to see the movie because I like Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley.

Never Let Me Go is the story of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. Through the eyes of Kathy, the reader follows the trio from when they were children. Much of the book feels like a free association of memories. Kathy begins one story, which triggers a different, tangential memory. I would expect to find this annoying, but, in this case, I didn't. Perhaps that's because the progressions of Kathy's memories seem so logical and natural. I'm curious as to how this can be maintained in a film adaptation without becoming confusing or jarring.

There is something mysterious about Hailsham, where the trio grows up, and the fate that awaits them after they leave. The entirety of their fate is hidden from the reader in much the same way it is hidden from the Hailsham students. Details come out slowly, and it isn't until the very end that the complete truth is revealed. The murkiness of the story kept me reading. Despite this, I did have some problems with the book. I thought Ruth was an awful, manipulative person and wished Tommy and Kathy would desert her on several occasions. There were also moments when I felt like the donations (part of that murky future) were an artificial device to create obstacles. I may have had less trouble with the donations premise if Ishiguro hadn't put a date on his story (Kathy is narrating from the late 1990s.) or if my head had been ready for dystopia.

In the end, I have mixed feelings about Never Let Me Go. It is extremely well-written and kept me engaged. However, I felt a sort of detached curiosity while reading. I never really cared about the characters. Yet maybe this is intentional. Kathy, Tommy and Ruth always seem slightly detached from their lives and their emotions so maybe I just adopted the attitude I perceived in them. As I said, mixed feelings.

Will I see the movie now? I'm not sure. Do I think you should read the book? I think so. Despite my misgivings, I'll probably still be thinking about Never Let Me Go for days to come, which I think is an indication of a good book. Plus, like I said in the beginning, I've heard nothing but wonderful things about this book. I almost feel like a traitor, or maybe an imbecile, for not being completely enamored with it.

If you've already read Never Let Me Go, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.


  1. I really want to read this book and see the movie. At least I think I want to see the movie - I may change my mind if I read the book.

  2. I loved the book, but probably not as much as REMAINS OF THE DAY. The movie was a very faithful adaptation of the book- the mood and the flaws were maintained, as well as what made it wonderful.