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Never Let Me Go (Movie Tie-In Edition)…

Never Let Me Go (Movie Tie-In Edition) (Vintage International) (edition 2010)

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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13,754611152 (3.83)960
Title:Never Let Me Go (Movie Tie-In Edition) (Vintage International)
Authors:Kazuo Ishiguro
Info:Vintage (2010), Edition: Mti, Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

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English (584)  Dutch (6)  French (5)  Spanish (5)  German (3)  Italian (2)  Swedish (1)  Galician (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (609)
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The main characters of Never Let Me Go live in a science fiction world but they aren’t the saviors, they aren’t the exceptions, they aren’t special. They’re just inhabitants of this world, with all the good and bad that it entails, and they’re trying to live their lives within those confines. Think about how rare this is in science fiction: from the prophet of Dune who leads his people against the empire, to the beautiful and noble savage of Brave New World that was reared outside of the controlled society, to the party member of 1984 and his quiet rebellion, most of science fiction isn’t about an average person. Even Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale features a resistance movement, the central character in many ways experiencing that dystopian society in a way that the average member wouldn’t. Off the top of my head the only other science fiction book that I can think of that focuses on absolutely average people just trying to live their lives is Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, though in that book life of any kind is a rarity and the average person is dead and gone. Never Let Me Go’s characters aren’t fated to be Autarch, they aren’t super talented hackers, they don’t stumble upon some piece of advanced technology, or make first contact with aliens, and this normalcy is what allows Ishiguro to write a piece of science fiction that’s character-driven and compelling.

I’d previously read Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day and found it interesting and well done, but not particularly enjoyable. In that book he perfectly captures a man who is in some ways not a human being at all: having forever defined himself purely by his occupation as a butler he lacks even the most rudimentary ability to analyze his life, his actions, or the people around him in any way except as to how it relates to his position, and he’s essentially emotionally stunted. Again, Ishiguro perfectly captures the character, but with a subject like that I appreciated the book more on a technical level than I actually enjoyed the experience of reading it. I’m glad I read another book by Ishiguro, because in Never Let Me Go Ishiguro again almost perfectly captures not only the narrator, but the other two main characters as well, establishing a distinct narrative voice from that used in The Remains of the Day. Additionally, these characters aren’t the vaguely inhuman butler of Remains, but are instead real people- in a way- that are relatable and that I ended up not only empathizing with but rooting for, which is something that a book only rarely manages to make me do.

Having only read the book almost a decade after it was first published and years after the movie version was released I already knew the subject matter of the book, which unfortunately undercuts the mystery of the early sections. Luckily, however, the sense of mystery isn’t key to enjoying the book, not only because most of the situation is revealed early on (I believe you’d be able to figure a good deal of it out by page 69, and it’s spelled out on page 139), but because Ishiguro masterfully writes both the revelation and the character’s feelings that go along with the revelation. It is the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of the characters that are the more important thing anyway, in my view, and Ishiguro nails it all every time. What most impressed me is that Ishiguro never took the easy way out and had his characters become melodramatic. It’s a book about relationships, primarily, and melodrama provides an easy way to make such things more exciting- easy, but cheap. Instead Ishiguro gives us interactions that are often understated, subtle, with key events occurring in an anticlimactic fashion, their importance only apparent in retrospect. In my opinion and experience this is far more true to life than the theatrical interactions you most often see written, in science fiction especially. Characters in Never Let Me Go scream, occasionally, but when they do it’s not only justified in the narrative but earned by it as well.

With all this discussion of subdued reactions I’m afraid I’m making the book sound boring, but it’s really not. Though it’s not painted as such by the narrator the book is about a life or death struggle, the setting (especially the first setting) works perfectly to make that struggle relatable but still mysterious, and the conversational style of the writing gives the book a good flow and lets you get to know the narrator and main character without shoving characterization down your throat. There are a couple places where the narrative slows down and the flow suffers, but for the most part the story introduces new events and hints about the world pretty frequently.

The new events are often relatively minor, an argument between teenage girls, for instance, but thanks to the well-realized characters even these events are compelling. As mentioned above, Ishiguro captures the way that such characters would react to perfection, and that makes all the difference. Though the characters largely fall into archetypes you’ve seen a dozen times before, they still feel like full three-dimensional characters- or they feel flat in believable ways (a feat that very few writers I’m aware of can pull off). The only complaint I had with characterization is that Ruth was sometimes hurtful in ways that struck me as more for narrative convenience or to fit into her archetype than it did as realistic. All in all the characters, their emotions and interactions and thoughts, are what drive the narrative, and this is unfortunately all too rare for a science fiction book.

The science fiction element of this book is also done to perfection: oftentimes the science fiction elements of the universe are clearly the author’s real interest and the characters are left underdeveloped. Other times the science fiction elements are mere window dressing, and the story would have been identical without them, meaning that the elements have added nothing to the story. Ishiguro falls into neither pit here, as he uses the science fiction element to put these characters in a situation that they couldn’t possibly occupy in the normal world, and then uses this situation to explore human nature, people’s behavior and ideas and outlooks on life. Ishiguro presents us with a world where people aren’t controlled by force or the threat of it, but nevertheless undergo things we would never subject ourselves to, simply because they don’t really believe they have any other choice. They never try to escape because they’ve never thought of escape as a possibility, they never resist because they can’t see any point in doing so, they can’t even see that there is anything they should be resisting or escaping from. Masterfully done.

And now a brief critique, which I realize is a bit strange given what I’ve praised in the book so far: I think that in some respects Ishiguro, because of the fact that this book tells us the story of years and years of the lives of these characters, may have gone a bit too far with a few things: life largely isn’t melodramatic- but every once in a while it is. People mostly don’t challenge their assumptions and question why the world works the way it does- but sometimes they do. People don’t see the ways in which they’re trapped by life and being forced down a path they really didn’t sign up for in its entirety- but during the course of an entire lifetime, they may well have that realization. Thus when Ishiguro gives us these lives free of melodrama, in a dystopia where the imprisoned can’t even see the bars, I love him for it, but it all feels just a bit too clean, a bit too convenient. How could he have written this story in such a way as to negate that criticism, while still maintaining the tone he does? I’m not sure it’s possible, but it’s a critique of mine nonetheless.

Overall a very, very good book. Excellent writing and characters, and it’s science fiction done right. Even if you don’t enjoy science fiction I expect you’ll find something to like here.

An endnote about something that I doubt very much Ishiguro had any control over: the Vintage paperback version of this book uses a terrible font. It was bad enough that I actually noticed that it was a bad font, something that I don’t believe I’ve ever done before in any of the hundreds of books I’ve read. So if you can avoid the Vintage edition I’d recommend that you do so.
( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
Three and half stars. Thoughtful, restrained, and mannerly--this novel is more interested in the personal relationships of the 3 main characters than the larger dystopic social drama, somewhat to its detriment I think, but the whole is still moving. The middle third drags on a bit, as we expect the larger details of the students predicament to emerge more quickly after "graduation" but they don't, but the initial stage-setting drew me in quickly and the end was satisfying. In some ways this is a 19th century novel, where the narrator laboriously gathers clues to understanding her social position from conversations with classmates and intense but terse tete-a-tetes with shadowy authority figures, rather than from the media that would already have been inescapable in the 1970s and 1980s of the novel, though not to the extent of the internet age. ( )
  AThurman | Dec 7, 2014 |
Overall I really enjoyed this book, but I feel the novel's ending lacked emotional impact. Kathy's somewhat rambling first-person narrative worked well for her Hailsham reminiscing and her memories from the Cottages, but as it shifted toward the novel's present, it would have been more impacting if her narrative had also sharpened. I felt little to no connection to Kathy by the end of the novel. I feel that I'd have been more connected to her if we'd seen her as a donor herself. Overall an intriguing premise that fizzled a bit at the end. ( )
  rwilliab | Nov 21, 2014 |
One of the most depressing books I've ever read. ( )
  Verkruissen | Nov 5, 2014 |
I enjoyed this a lot - Ishiguro has created a very civilised form of dystopia ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 4, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 584 (next | show all)
Ishiguro is extremely good at recreating the special, oppressive atmosphere of school (and any other institution, for that matter)—the cliques that form, the covert rivalries, the obsessive concern with who sat next to whom, who was seen talking to whom, who is in favor at one moment and who is not.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, Anita Desai (pay site) (Nov 22, 2005)
The eeriest feature of this alien world is how familiar it feels. It's like a stripped-down, haiku vision of children everywhere, fending off the chaos of existence by inventing their own rules.
"Never Let Me Go" is marred by a slapdash, explanatory ending that recalls the stilted, tie-up-all-the loose-ends conclusion of Hitchcock's "Psycho." The remainder of the book, however, is a Gothic tour de force that showcases the same gifts that made Mr. Ishiguro's 1989 novel, "The Remains of the Day," such a cogent performance.
This extraordinary and, in the end, rather frighteningly clever novel isn't about cloning, or being a clone, at all. It's about why we don't explode, why we don't just wake up one day and go sobbing and crying down the street, kicking everything to pieces out of the raw, infuriating, completely personal sense of our lives never having been what they could have been.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Guardian, John Harrison (Feb 26, 2005)

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kazuo Ishiguroprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bützow, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Landor, RosalynNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Novarese, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
At the age of thirty-one, Kathy H. is coming to the end of her time as a carer – a milestone that prompts her to reflect on her unusual life. She begins, naturally, with her childhood at Hailsham, where she and her friends Ruth and Tommy negotiated the lessons and Exchanges set by their guardians, as well as the constant social pressures of school life. As her recollections progress, however, Kathy must take care not to delve too deeply into the tangled knot of her own emotions. The past holds no refuge for her; even since childhood, the knowledge of what the future holds has always been there, deep down – and some truths are too terrible to be confronted.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307740994, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:45 -0400)

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Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it. Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it's only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.… (more)

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