Review: Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

102927My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Date read: November 6th, 2017

Published by Faber and Faber, 2005

Verdict: Precise, clever and so very sad.

Find it on Goodreads.

From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day comes a devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.

Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author of The Remains of the Day.

This is the second time I have read this book – I could only remember liking it and not much more so I really wanted to reread this now that Kazuo Ishiguro has wone the Nobel Prize for Literature. And I am certainly glad I did.

The novel is speculative fiction but that speculative part is only at the periphery of the meditation on what makes us human, what makes live worth living, what friendship can do for us and how to make the most of the time we have been given. It is a novel about growing up, about friendship and love, about trust and betrayal, and about loss more than anything else. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy grow up on what at the beginning sounds like a normal boarding school but as the book progresses turns out to be something else completely. The story is told more or less chronologically by Kathy looking back at her life and greatly influenced by how she sees the world.

This time around Kathy struck me even more so than before as an unreliable narrator. She wants to see the world a certain way and makes everything else fit into that narrative. She puts her head in the sand and refuses to see the horrific reality of her life and those of her friends. But even more so, her relationship with Ruth is what made me think. Ruth sounds awful, do not get me wrong, but then again Kathy always goes out of her way to excuse her own behaviour while only paying lip service to Ruth’s intentions. Kathy’s snide remarks are always in reaction to something Ruth has supposedly done or thought. I liked how Ishiguro made their friendship so ambiguous and how the interactions have different layers to them. It added so much to my reading enjoyment and made me think about narrators in fiction and how we tend to trust them unless they make it clear that they are unreliable.

I adored the way Ishiguro tells his story, thoughtful and slowly and very clever. He builds an atmosphere of both dread and melancholy while creating highly believable characters. It is genre fiction with literary aspects which just is my favourite.

6 thoughts on “Review: Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. Lovely review, Hannah!!! I really need to re(re)read this, it’s been years, but Kathy remains one of my favorite protagonists of all time. I love Ishiguro’s use of unreliable narrators, it adds such a compelling layer to the story. I also remember being fascinated by her dynamic with Ruth.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d definitely go for A Pale View of Hills, it’s short but very harrowing. When We Were Orphans is also good if you’re feeling more historical fiction after The Remains of the Day. (I can’t in good conscience recommend The Buried Giant as I kind of hated it, but if you ever do get around to that one I’ll be really curious to see what you think, as it’s a pretty drastic departure from his other novels and everyone seems to either love or hate it.)

        Liked by 1 person

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