Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
My Rating: ★★★
Synopsis: 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.
(( Quick note – This review is spoiler-free ))
Never Let Me Go is a book that greatly intrigued me. There seemed to be such an air of mystery surrounding it – the synopsis was so vague that the book could have been about almost anything, and every review I had almost-read insisted that I must read the book before reading any review. And that’s the point. Now, that could be considered speculation about the intentions of the author on my part – but as coincidence would have it, an English Teacher at my school once met the author who handed him a copy of the book, briefly explaining that he wrote it, without saying a word to the nature of the plot – in the process confirming my theory. In all honesty I think this is perhaps the best feature of this book – the fact that you have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen, even once you’ve started reading. The exposition is spread intermittently throughout the book, making it difficult to fully understand just what’s going on until you reach a certain point. This technique is can be extremely effective, in some way making you want to read more and more.
There’s a problem with this though, it makes the entire book feel like you’re “waiting for the good bit to start” – it’s like you’re stuck in endless exposition, waiting for the actual plot to begin. I think this can be faulted, in part at least, to the narrative style. This book is written like a conversation. Imagine yourself sitting down with someone and them telling you their life story for about four hours. That’s this book – an endless description of events in the past tense. Even if their life story is an incredibly interesting one, you’re almost certainly going to get bored a couple of hours in.
Now don’t get me wrong, Never Let Me Go is a good book, the idea is incredibly unique and despite what I’ve said I definitely recommend you read it if you haven’t already – but one idea can’t sustain an entire book on it’s own, some dramatic flair is needed to keep the audience intrigued. Readers who perhaps don’t have the focus or patience to keep reading a style like this will most likely give up half way through, and while I don’t think they should, I can’t blame them. I almost had to force myself to finish it, procrastinating for days at a time and in the end taking weeks to finish it.
Never Let Me Go is undoubtedly an intelligently written book, accomplishing it’s intention – it just so happens that the focus of this intention doesn’t seem to include engaging the reader. Herein lies the paradox: can a book be good if it is written well but the a fair number of readers find themselves bored by it? Honestly, I don’t know the answer, it’s a question that has always confused me and I won’t be even attempting to answer it here.
The bottom line: Yes, I recommend you read this book, but don’t expect to be blown away by it.