I can see Never Let Me Go being great for book clubs because it will generate a lot of discussion.That being said, I didn t care for the book, for a couple of different reasons The writing style is very conversational very much like you re having a discussion with the protagonist The thing that annoyed me the most about this was the fact that the things that happened so bob and I went walking to the store and we had a fight about the tree at school and then the writer would tell you about the tree and why it was significant, then tell you about the fight This sort of device is interesting the first few times you see it, but it started to annoy me over time Maybe because I talk like that, and get off into tangents and anecdotes.Also, at the heart of the store is the purpose fate of the main characters I get the impression that the author wanted to drop clues about it, and then reveal it so that it is a shocking twist who s Kaiser Soeze The thing is, the references really aren t that subtle, so by the time the twist is reavealed, it s not all that exciting Not only that, but I had so many questions at the end Like these people know their fate, but they never think to question it, and, in fact, seem to be glad for it.This was supposed to be a coming of age story Generally coming of age involves people growing up and moving forward with their lives often they need to overcome some obstacle to reveal their potential However, the characters seem to be stagnate the whole way through their fate doesn t change The blurb on the back of the book mentions that the characters, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, all have a shared background that s special, and implies that they re lucky When two of the charaters confront someone to see if they can defer their fate they don t even bother trying to change it , we find out a little bit of what makes their shared background special, but we aren t given anything to compare it to we re just told that similar people have horrible existences, but not how And they find out that they can t defer their fate, but they don t really seem to care they don t even seem to be particularly glad that they tried.I ve seen a couple of reviews compare this to book to Aldous Huxley s classic Brave New World and Margaret Atwood s The Handmaid s Tale Not even close In both of these books we re exposed to an alternate reality, and we see how the main characters deal with their situations Kazuo Ishiguro tries to sneak the alternate reality into the story, to take us by surprise.I could go on, but I won t Let s just say that I didn t care for this book and leave it at that. Imagine a restaurant, London, mid 2003.Publisher Hey, K, we need another novel and we need it quick.K I know, I know.Publisher Another Remains of the Day Something Hollywood can turn into a hit.K I m working on it.Publisher Any ideas K Well, I ve been reading some Jonathan Swift.Publisher Who K You know, Gulliver s Travels.Publisher Oh, yeah, Jack Black It s in pre production.K Well, he had a modest proposal about how to stop the children of the poor being a burden Publisher I m with you, yep, delinquents, sounds good.K he wanted to stop them being a burden to their parents Publisher Yep, with you.K and the Country.Publisher Yep, a Thatcherite angle, I think it s Maggie s time again.K Anyway, he had this idea that you could kill two birds with one stone you could end the kids misery and the poverty of their parents at the same time Publisher Let me guess, you could eat them, ha ha.K You ve read it Publisher No wait, you re kidding me, aren t you K No, that s the whole point of the story.Publisher What, eat your kids K No, not your own kids, other people s kids.Publisher How could anyone do it K He goes into that stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled Publisher Yuck.K He even talks about making them into a fricassee or a ragout.Publisher It s a bit out there, K.K I was thinking of updating it a bit.Publisher How would you do that K I was thinking I could tell the story from the point of view of a midwife who Publisher Someone who has to care for the kids K Yeah, until they turn 12 months or somethingPublisher Let me guess, then she hands them over to a child butcher or something K Yeah.Publisher Look, I can see where you re going with this, but it all sounds a bit grotesque.K That s the whole point It s an allegory for our times.Publisher I just don t know whether it s got legs.K Legs You re kidding me it s got every damned limb and organ you can think of.Publisher I don t want to think of it, I can just imagine the reviews They ll call it The Remains of the Meat Tray.K Ha, I hadn t thought of that, I was going to call it The Remains of the Creche.Publisher It gets worse.K No, honestly, I was thinking of Never Let Me Grow.Publisher You mean, like never let me grow up K Yeah.Publisher Do you think you could turn the people into pigs or something, you know, like Animal Farm K I was sort of hooked on the idea of using people and narrating the story in a really dead pan voice Publisher I don t know about dead pan, it sounds frying pan to me.K If it s dead pan, people won t be able to tell whether it s set in the future or the present They won t know how close to reality it is.Publisher I just don t know what I think about this eating babies stuff.K But it s like sci fi, you can do anything in sci fi.Publisher Look, if we let you do this, they won t be calling it sci fi, they ll be calling it sci fry.K If you let me do it, I guarantee we ll be able to get Helen Mirren to play the midwife.Publisher Who K Helen Mirren, you know, the Queen.Publisher No, no Look, if you can tweak it, you know, think about my idea for a second, set it on Animal Farm, make it about cloning pigs, so they can grow body parts for other pigs or something K I know, put some wizard animals in it and call it Hogparts Publisher Come on take me seriously, K, just clone it up and tone it down.K I ll think about it.Publisher I ll see if I can get Keira Knightley to voice one of the pigs K She s hot.Publisher You could call it Never Let Me Go.K What does that mean Publisher It s a song my mother used to play Jane Monheit sang it.K I could get used to it Don t know what I think about the name Monheit though Publisher It does sound a bit German, doesn t it K What would you think if I called her something English in the book.Publisher Like Judy Bridgewater K Who s Judy Bridgewater Publisher It s my mother s maiden name.K Sounds good to me.Publisher Look, I normally like to respect an artist s integrity, but hey, you re the artist, so I guess that makes it OK.K Do you think I could get to meet Keira Knightley Publisher I think so look I ve been thinking about it, maybe it s not such a good idea to turn Keira Knightley into a pig.K Sometimes you can t really see the depth of your own characters, until you can imagine who s going to play them.Publisher So, no pigs K No pigs I don t mind the cloning bit though.Original Review April 16, 2011Some More Serious ThoughtsI wrote the above dialogue before I even finished the book.I wanted to read the book before seeing the film, which I will probably do in the next week or so during the holidays.When I wrote the dialogue, I probably had about 50 pages to finish, but the dialogue had taken shape in my head, and I didn t want to risk losing it.There might have been a chance that it would be superseded by my final thoughts on the novel itself.I had high expectations that I would finally get to appreciate the novel when I had finished it and absorbed the denouement.Unfortunately, it left me feeling dissatisfied.Narrative StyleI didn t find the narrative style appropriate or convincing.It is told in the first person, by way of recollection of three different periods of Kathy s life.The periods are discussed chronologically, although during each period, there are occasional allusions to each other period.There is a lot of internal detail about each period, what was going on in Kathy s head.Dialogue between the characters is infrequent and sparse.The novel is overwhelmingly an interior monologue.Occasionally, there are lapses or flaws in Kathy s memory that she self consciously draws attention to.Part of me wanted to say to the author, It s your story, just get it right, you can remember anything you like, because you re making it up anyway But then I guess we have to differentiate between Ishiguro and Kathy.We have to expect some flaws in the glass, rather than a word and memory perfect narrative.Still I was never really confident who Kathy was talking to, it wasn t just an interior monologue, there were occasional mentions of a you , a second person to whom she was talking.If you had sat down to tell this story to someone else, I think you could or would have told the story far succinctly and selectively.The detail and the repetition of environment, atmosphere and mood bulk up the painting, but they don t add to the depth.Each new layer of paint is superimposed on the previous layer, so that while there might be a lot of paint on the canvas, it is physically, rather then metaphorically, deep.The Geometry of LoveSPOILER ALERTWhile Kathy, Ruth and Tommy live in an horrific environment perhaps a metaphorical equivalent to a concentration camp , the novel deals with the quality of their humanity under these circumstances.The guardians might have been trying to work out incidentally whether they had souls, but ultimately what we learn is that the positive aspects of human nature can survive or prevail despite the circumstances.It s interesting that the characters quest for love initially seemed to be motivated by a belief that it would postpone their donations and prolong their lives.While this belief turns out to be mistaken, Kathy discovers that love is worth seeking in its own right, regardless of any consequences or notions of cause and effect.Ruth promoted the belief in the life prolonging effect of love.In effect, Kathy acquiesced in it and never deliberately interfered in or disrupted the relationship between Ruth and Tommy.However, when she comes to the end of the story, perhaps she realises that she should have been less acquiescent and let herself express her love for Tommy.So ultimately, Never Let Me Go is a love story, a triangular one at that.Life is short, you just have to get on with it, you have to take your true love wherever you can find it, even if someone else gets hurt in the process.When we pair up in love, there is always a chance that someone will miss out or get hurt.Three into two won t go.Perhaps, this is actually calculus rather than geometry, but you know what I mean. It s very important, if you re intending to read this book, that you don t read any reviews or listen to any talk about it first I had no idea what this book was about before I read it and the blurb gives you a very different impression, actually and so I slipped easily into a story that was as engrossing as it was revealing.If you know something about what to expect, though, I don t think you ll enjoy it nearly as much It s a bit like an art installation that requires audience participation you have to do your bit, too, to make it work, so it makes sense, so it tells the story it was meant to tell Keep yourself in the dark, that s my advice Because of this, there s no point in writing an actual review. Ah, f kin British writers My inclination to adore everyone from Evelyn Waugh to Charles Dickens, from Alex Garland to Zadie Smith seems very ingrained DEEP inside me, primordial, there must be SOME bloody reason why I find most English fiction so alluring I think it has mostly to do with mood.The best book I ve read all year though not including Graham Greene s The Quiet American is about a microsociety of students in a boarding school hybrid named Hailsham While there they do rounds and rounds of arts and crafts and come of age together, grow up, yet there is something so not right with their seclusion and it takes page upon page to discover why it is that they are there It is horrific, it is bizarre, this secret is handled with so much craft that it is indeed this attribute that marks this outstanding quite brutal masterpiece apart from others There is an incredibly subtle mastery of several different genres here Sci fi meshes impeccably with allegory which is played out in the manner of a Gothic romance Because the characters are trapped in all of this, the end result is The Genre Supreme Tragedy I feel so bad for Ruth, Tommy especially for Kath, the wise but all too frail narrator, but at least their petition, which is the book s title, is true This one is now on the list of all those I cannot let go or do without. From The Booker Prize Winning Author Of The Remains Of The Day And When We Were Orphans, Comes An Unforgettable Edge Of Your Seat Mystery That Is At Once Heartbreakingly Tender And Morally Courageous About What It Means To Be HumanHailsham 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 ItWithin 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 Never Let Me Go Breaks Through The Boundaries Of The Literary Novel It Is A Gripping Mystery, A Beautiful Love Story, And Also A Scathing Critique Of Human Arrogance And A Moral Examination Of How We Treat The Vulnerable And Different In Our Society In Exploring The Themes Of Memory And The Impact Of The Past, Ishiguro Takes On The Idea Of A Possible Future To Create His Most Moving And Powerful Book To Date Let me start by saying that my review might contain some plot spoilers However I personally don t think that knowing the plot in advance will in any way diminish the enjoyment of this story The beauty of this book is not in the plot, but in its execution.Another friendly warning Never Let Me Go is for some reason often classified as science fiction This is why so many readers end up disappointed I think This novel is literary fiction at its finest So if you look down on literary fiction and consider books written by authors like Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, and Jose Saramago pretentious, this is not a story for you.Now to the novel itself Kathy, now 31, is a former student of an English boarding school Hailsham Hailsham is a school for kids with special purpose All education in this school is geared towards conditioning its student to accept their special destiny as a given As Kathy is getting ready to make her first donation while being a carer for other donors, she recounts her life in Hailsham and on her own, mostly in a form of anecdotes about herself and her best friends Ruth and Tommy, their rivalries, jealousies, and affection for each other There is nothing particularly shocking, gruesome, or intense about Kathy s story, and yet it leaves you with a sense of being a part of a nightmare.After reading quite a few reviews of the book, I can say that I loved the aspects of it that many abhorred What other readers say about Kathy her detachment, her lack of fire and rebellion, about broke my heart What can be heartbreaking than witnessing human lives wasted Let me tell you witnessing lives taken away from people who do not even realize what is being taken away from them, people who do not understand the value of their existence, people who do not know they have a right for There is of course, much to the story The novel explores the futility of human life, its un bargainable eventual completion and how we all choose to deal with the inevitable end But for me personally the pain of Kathy s quiet resignation to her fate was what stood out and touched me the most.In many ways Never Let Me Go reminded me of The Handmaid s Tale by Margaret Atwood Only Kathy is a step further from Offred If Offred knows what horrors she is subjected to, but has no strength or will to change her circumstances, Kathy doesn t even know that her life purpose, her destiny is inhumane This work is also, to me, very reminiscent of Ian McEwan s Atonement McEwan is a master of subtle build up to an almost unbearable, life shattering moment, but Ishiguro is a master of subtle telling without telling, foreshadowing, and emphasizing the gravity of the unsaid What else can I say about this novel Never Let Me Go is a masterfully written work of fiction which raises questions of what it is to be human, what you choose to do in the face of an impending death and what happens when science is not accompanied by ethics Subtle, eerie, chilling, and poignant One of the best books I have read this year. I had this book on my TBR shelf for years without realizing that it was essentially dystopian science fiction.The main character is a woman in her early thirties reflecting back on her life as a child at a private school in England Kids in the school grew up in an isolated but almost idyllic setting not knowing their parents but realizing somehow they were special After finishing school they live together in small groups in cottages before heading out into the world on their own The story is set in the late 1990 s.From the very first page we learn something is not right just from the language We read that they have become carers and donors their teachers are called guardians and later in the story a group goes out to look for an older woman who looks like one the school kids and might be her possible We also learn they can have sex but are incapable of having children and that after their third of fourth donation they have completed So we catch on pretty quickly what life has in store for these kids There are some genuine mysteries though Why does the school seem obsessed with encouraging them to do creative work, giving them awards and collecting the best work to go to a gallery that they never see Where does it go and who sees it and why Much of the plot is built around a three way love story between a boy and two girls at school All three are good friends but the boy and one of the girls are a couple That girl is controlling and domineering and prevents the relationship between her boyfriend and the other girl from developing Late in life a romantic relationship develops between the other girl the young woman who is our main character and the now young man In fact she becomes his carer Is the love they develop better than it would have been years ago Or is it too late and stale This quote explains the title Because maybe, in a way, we didn t leave it the school behind nearly as much as we might once have thought Because somewhere underneath, a part of us stayed like that fearful of the world around us, and no matter how much we despised ourselves for it unable quite to let each other go I thought it was a good story it kept my attention all the way through, although not quite as good as the author s best known work, Remains of the Day. You know those random stock characters in sci fi action movies, the ones who never get names or any lines They re always spending their precious few minutes of screen time getting shoved out of the way as the hero hurtles desperately down a hallway, or watching from a safe distance as a climactic fight goes on, or diving out of the way whenever a murderous cyborg smashes through their office window Have you ever wondered what those people s lives were like Have you ever thought to yourself, Man, this movie s interesting and all, but I want to know about that guy who owned the hotel where Sarah Conner hid from the Terminator I bet he leads a fascinating life believe me, he doesn t Imagine if someone decided to write a book about this kind of person The result is Never Let Me Go semi spoilers ahoy, you ve been warned So the book is about a sort of alternate universe England, where people are cloned and the resulting kids are raised in isolated boarding schools, spending all their time painting and playing sports and getting vague hints about how when they get older they ll have to make donations We learn eventually and with no drama whatsoever that these kids were created specifically as future organ donors, and that s all they re meant for Ishiguro introduces us to Kathy, the narrator, and her friends who lived at one of these schools with her Ruth and Tommy As I said, we gradually and laboriously learn about the school s real purpose, but it seems almost like a subplot, because the majority of the book is just Kathy nattering on about her school and how she and Ruth got into a fight this one time and also she had a crush on Tommy but he and Ruth were dating so Kathy had sex with some other random guys and oh my god can we get back to the organ donor thing Seriously the whole book is like that we get the sense that there s some creepy futuristic stuff going on in the background, but our protagonists don t care because they re too busy telling us about that one time Kathy lost her favorite cassette tape and it was very upsetting Even when it seems like a plot s about to start, it s always a false alarm The trip to a nearby town that the three characters take to find a woman they think may be Ruth s possible a person she may have been cloned from doesn t pan out, and we realize that the real point of the trip was an attempt to convince the reader that Tommy and Kathy have some sort of romantic attraction to each other Ruth s possible, and everything it might have meant, is abandoned so that Ishiguro can have another chance to demonstrate his astonishing inability to create any kind of chemistry between two characters And the end Without giving anything away, I ll just say that Kathy and Tommy finally get all the answers about their school and what was actually going on, and they respond bygoing about their lives in the exact same way as before I mean, good God Even though this is supposed to be some sort of intellectual science fiction, I don t care There s cloning and dystopian undertones ergo it is sci fi And I like my sci fi loud, shiny, and dramatic, with lots of explosions and computers that talk There s a reason Harry Potter starts when he gets his Hogwarts letter, folks Because no one wants to hear about ordinary people being ordinary that s kind of the whole point of fiction. I had previously avoided this book, having heard it referred to as British science fiction And when I hear British science fiction, I think of Dr Who Then I think about all those childhood snuff film fantasies where Captain Kirk zaps him Phasers set to kill, dammit Inter dimensional traveling dandies in phone booths are the exception to Federation regulations What is it about the British, anyway A phone booth That s Superman s bag, baby Superhero envy much The sun may have never set on the British Empire, but we Yankees have a guy who can fly faster than the speed of light But then I found myself alone in a big bookstore in a big city trying to divine what the angelic face on the book s cover was looking askance at itself manipulated, no doubt, like the fictional clones whose story it was fashioned to sell and thinking of Kurosawa s definition of art being about the ability to look at humanity in its entirety without flinching.Mulligan I flinched.But Kazuo Ishiguro hasn t And he doesn t think much of me Or you And he s probably correct in that judgment Imagine the most genteel, tea sipping people gathered around fine china in a flowery patterned drawing room somewhere in the English countryside A shaft of midday sun shines through drawn curtains as they politely discuss the day s happenings Then imagine Leatherface, Jack the Ripper, Lex Luther, Sarah Palin and Michael Jackson s dad ransacking everything around them, starting at the furthest perimeters of the house, slowly working their way toward our happy people and ultimately cannibalizing them Then imagine both groups acting as if this is completely normal Nary a word of protest or questioning, mind you That s what this book is like to me.It was very difficult to read, in the psychological sense of read The pathos was too overwhelming I had to take a break from it, about two thirds of the way through I tried to tell myself that it was because I had read the bulk of it as I was hidden away in some claustrophobic hotel room, or that I found the prose tedious at times In truth, though, it succeeds in shining a light on human nature, and I just couldn t bear to look The story made me uncomfortable, and I hated myself for returning to it after having put it aside I was irked by the characters, my inner Kirk screaming, SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING The lethargic creepiness made me realize that no, not only was nobody going to do anything, but that neither I, nor you, nor any of us, are all that different from the people who harvest these poor souls for their organs After all, I m a fat and happy first worlder who less and less has a care or thought for all those who are exploited to make my life possible.We homo sapiens adapt to anything and hang our hats on the most contorted and worn rationalizations.I would grind my teeth and ask, Where is their Marx Their Malcolm X Fuck, I d have settled for Stalin or Benedict Arnold But maybe the revolutionary gene had been isolated and bred out of their clone bodies a distinct possibility, owing to the imperfect knowledge of the first person narrator What s worse is that whereas science may have manipulated them to be docile, we, all of us, have been likewise manipulated by the inertia of history.As I have written, I grew tired with what I saw as tedious prose, the catalog of details about everyday life cited by the narrator But then it dawned on me that this cataloging is exactly the sort of thing a dying person would do Life would take on urgency What you and I may take for granted is pregnant with wonder to the condemned In fact, happy serendipity, this view is supported by a study cited in the November 2009 issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin researchers have found that those who profess to be in love are analytical And what is someone condemned to die other than someone in love with life I winced at Ishiguro s condemnation of liberal half measures in the face of social norms The narrator and her group of friends are raised in an almost humane manner educated, encouraged to cultivate personal friendships with one another, encouraged to pursue art And while they represent the exception, an experiment to demonstrate that clones have souls, they are condemned nonetheless All the petty jealousies and transcendent friendships that framed their short, beautiful lives, are consumed by larger society And while there is never a mention of God, the closest they come is looking up a former instructor who is only mildly repulsed by them and who bids them eat from the Tree of Complete Knowledge.Repeat after me I am pathetic I am powerless.Kirk, succumbing to the Borg after all. I m always excited when I run across a novel that is, so far as I can tell, essentially perfect Never Let Me Go is one of those There is not a single thing wrong with this book Ishiguro is a master craftsman and it shows here.The novel s characterizations are pitch perfect Its narrative flow reveals things in exactly the right order Mystery is preserved until it no longer matters and then, under the light of revelation, we discover the mystery was never the thing that mattered Ishiguro plays with the reader as he unfolds his exploration of what it means to live but never does so unfairly or at the expense of his characters right to dignity and reality a right that he very much does grant his characters Never Let Me Go is narrated from nearly a decade before its publication As Kathy quietly reminisces from her vantage in the late 1990s, she gradually comes to explore a life fraught with meaning and purpose and fraught simultaneously with that kind of superlative meaninglessness that Ecclesiastes bemoans in all of its somber weariness Kathy is a caregiver to recuperating donors and relates her special pleasure in the few instances in which she had been able to offer care to those who had been students at the exclusive and, as it turns out, much envied Hailsham, where she herself grew up Memories of Hailsham water a fertile delta of memories through which we gradually come to understand both Kathy and the world she has inherited a world filled both with much light and much darkness.In other words, a world much like mine or yours Still, Kathy s story is unique and it is in her own tale s peculiarities that our own is better revealed Better explored.Some may be tempted to see Never Let Me Go as ethical question and admonishment to this generation of readers and to the one that follows us Certainly, that is there, but only as mise en sc ne to the larger panorama of a woman s quest to discern her past, present, and future from a glut of memories some of which are only mostly trustworthy or even trusted and how that journey sheds light on questions important than mere ethical concerns In Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro continues to play as he has in past works with memory and perception and how memory is so often the primary defense against perspicacity, yet as his narrator is acutely aware of her own remolding of history through nostalgia and forgetfulness, we are assured that perspicuity is not his target here.No I believe Never Let Me Go is much a perfectly plotted meditation and its style is itself quite meditative on the human condition, the place of our own hands in shaping our destinies, and what it means to live These could all be clich d topics but Ishiguro approaches with such a vaguely detached sublimity that he breathes through Kathy his narrator a certain verdant spirit into these things They are never treated as anything than mundane, but it is precisely by that treatment that he gives his purpose such power and impact.