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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
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Never Let Me Go (edition 2005)

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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13,996628148 (3.83)1036
Member:gwalklin
Title:Never Let Me Go
Authors:Kazuo Ishiguro
Info:Faber and Faber (2005), Hardcover, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:favs

Work details

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

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» See also 1036 mentions

English (599)  Dutch (6)  German (5)  French (5)  Spanish (5)  Italian (2)  Swedish (1)  Galician (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (626)
Showing 1-5 of 599 (next | show all)
Ten years ago this was one of those IT books that had so much acclaim and popularity that I gave it a miss. Now in 2015 dystopian fiction is more popular than ever, with each book seemingly more extreme than the last. Not so with this book. It is subtle and constrained and all the more powerful as a result. Coming in, I knew the premise which I’ll give away here, but I don’t think it ruins the book. The real reason the characters exist doesn’t stay a secret long and it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out pretty soon anyway.

What baffled me was how utterly passive the characters are both as kids and as adults. Not a whiff of rebellion or aggression. When they’re cloned, do those traits get bred out of them? To make them a more manageable population for the eventual harvest? Pretty radical Miss Emily and Madame creating a school for them where they learn about the outside world. Could have been a breeding ground for some kind of clandestine group bent on revolution.

But no, nothing so dramatic unfolds with Kathy H’s story. One of the first things to strike me in the book was the concept of parents. It didn’t exist. There are none though the kids are aware that the people on the outside have them. They know what sex is and what it brings under normal circumstances, but not for them. Their lack of curiosity about the outside world is also conspicuous in its absence. I’d have thought they’d be dying to know about things. They do, after all, know what their futures hold and to some extent they will be in that world, even if it isn’t for long.

Bit by bit, they come to know they are donors. Tissues and organs to cure other people are the only reason they exist, but it remains nebulous for them and it’s all the more painful to read about the fantasies many of them have that they might do something else. One girl imagines she’ll work in a cube farm. To her it’s glamorous. A teacher (known as Guardians) bursts their bubbles in a moment of rash honesty and soon she leaves the “school”. Only later do we come to know that she was forced out because of this kind of behavior.

The relationships between the three main characters, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, were at the same time typical of teenagers and also really strange in the fearlessness of each to hurt the other. Probably it was their confinement that made it possible. In the outside world, people are free to leave one another; to break ties finally and absolutely. In the enclosed universe they inhabit those bonds are less fragile and more flexible. It allows relationships to be less one-dimensional and all positive. Even through the negative aspects, each scene set up and lovingly rendered by Kathy, the three are bonded. I understood pretty quickly Ruth was trying to monopolize Tommy, something she confessed to at the end, but Kathy seemed deliberately blind to it. As if she valued her connection to Ruth more than anything else, especially sex which she viewed as a biological reflex and the desire for it beyond her control.

Most people characterize the book as depressing or sad, and while the tone is subdued, the characters don’t seem to be sad about their fate. They’re not even resigned to it as you or I would be. Instead most of them feel it’s their place. Not a calling exactly, but their purpose and one they should fulfill. Any sense of injustice is absent on their parts and left for the reader to carry. ( )
1 vote Bookmarque | Mar 28, 2015 |
This is the first novel I've read by Ishiguro and, whilst I only gave it three stars, I did enjoy the story and concept and will certainly look at more of his work. The book has also been made into a film which I may check out sometime.

If you haven't read it or don't know much about the story, try not to read spoilery reviews. Unfortunately, I was just checking out the reviews before I read and one review (here on LibraryThing) practically gave it away in the first sentence.

The story is narrated by Kathy who is looking back at her school days and telling us about what's happened to her and her friends over the course of time. That's all I can say about the plot without giving anything away. I did love the concept and cannot doubt that it is an imaginative story.

The downside for me was some of the writing or what could be meant as an intended character trait. Kathy/Ishiguro have that rather annoying habbit that my dear ole nan used to have when telling a story. You probably know someone who does the same. Heck it could be you or even me! I'm even doing it now. You know, the one that takes about 3 days to get to the point - 'Ah guess what!!?? You'll never guess what Peggy did! It was incredible. I nearly died laughing and the police had to come to sort it out. But first, I need to tell out about these eggs I bought a few months ago. This will help you understand more about what Peggy did".... and then 3 days later, if you're lucky, you may get to find out.

This is no doubt a useful device to provide the reader with more detail about events prior to the event, or even some character development however, after about the umpteenth time of it happening I found myself tensing up, rolling my eyes and losing patience. I'm not sure if it was down to the writing or the character and it certainly didn't help to engage in feeling any kind if empathy with the characters (apart from Tommy) until the last couple of chapters.

Grumbles aside, the book was a big page turner and I did find myself looking forward to curling up with it of an evening after a busy day at work. Additionally, I did feel something for the characters towards the end and found it quite moving, engaging and thoughtful - I think it would certainly engage a lot of debate in any reading group. ( )
  lilywren | Mar 25, 2015 |
One of the most depressing books I've ever read. ( )
  Verkruissen | Mar 25, 2015 |
So good.
  TLkirsten | Mar 21, 2015 |
Diversity is difficult to achieve in the world of literature. The concept has become more of a watchword for racial or gender politics, a watchword of the modern generations to allow for a more plural set of narratives than were thought available in print. But as publishers seek the minority voices to fill all of the newly diverse niche publication markets, so many writers are able to do little more than churn the same voice, the same tone, the same characters and perspectives out in book after book. Not so, Kazuo Ishiguro.

[Never Let Me Go] is the sixth, and most recent, novel from this chameleon of literature, though it was published nearly ten years ago. Set in the 1980s and 1990s, it is at once dystopian and British boarding school coming of age. Ishiguro imagines an alternative historical track from the end of World War II in which the ability to clone humans has provided an endless supply of tissue and organ materials. The clones in the story are raised in a school system as they await the proper maturation for the use of their organs. Though there is a vague notion of their fate, the clones are sheltered to the point of an almost unbelievable naiveté, a situation which is complicated upon their release into the world as they await harvesting.

Told in first person, the novel reads like a conversation with the narrator, Kathy, who is a carer – a sort of companion for clones who have begun being taken apart, organ by organ. Ishiguro managed to strike the perfect conversational balance, allowing Kathy to slide back and forth in time and substance as she tells her story, as most of us would if we were chatting about our youth.

The novel is a wonder for anyone who’s read any of Ishiguro’s other work. For example, [When We Were Orphans] is set in pre-World War II Shanghai, and is a mystery novel. [The Remains of the Day], largely considered to be his best work, is a story of manners and repressed emotion, set among the British servant class.

The only criticism to be lodged is Ishiguro’s expository dump in the late pages of the novel to explain the history that the over-protected clones could barely even imagine asking questions about – a problem for someone writing a first person narrative. These clones would never be in a position to know, and therefore discuss, how they came to be where they are and what’s happening to them. Ishiguro lays all of this on the reader through a conversation with one of the clone’s keepers near the ending of the book. Personally, I would have been okay with the veiled references and ambiguous information from the clone’s perspective, as the story doesn’t change much with the in-your-face description.

Bottom Line: A unique story from an extremely diverse author, even if he yearned to disclose too much with the ending.

4 bones!!!!! ( )
1 vote blackdogbooks | Mar 1, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 599 (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)
 

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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.
Haiku summary

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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