Review : Never let me go

Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Pages : 263
Genre : Science fiction
My Rating : 

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.

It’s a really hard book to summarize without giving away the story. I tried to put the smallest description I could find so that those of you who haven’t read the book yet would still get some “surprises” reading it. Therefore, my review won’t be so much about the story, but about the way it was presented. Here we go.

First, I should say that I did like Never let me go; liked, not loved. The book would be excellent as a subject of discussion and its idea is clever, but there was something missing in its execution. The good news is, I don’t think it’s a fault of the book as much as something that I, personally, didn’t like.

For me, the problem was the narration’s structure. While I do enjoy a conversational style, I found this one to be a little irritating. The narrator kept interrupting her story with anecdotes, only to say “But I’ll get to that later”, and then back to the original story. And this, more than once or twice. The narrathor also uses frequently expressions like “I don’t know about you, but me…” It gave me the impression the narrator (and therefore, the author), was trying to include you in the conversation. For me though, it didn’t work : everytime the narrator would “talk to me”, it made me concious I was reading, and it took me out of the story (is what I’m saying making any sense to you? I’m not sure how to describe that feeling.)

To be fair, the narration is also one of the book’s strenghts. Whithout spoiling it for those who have yet to read it, let’s just say that it was original to have such a normal approach of the subject! The writing was so realistic that it was easy to perceive what the characters might feel like – even though I didn’t find them to be very likeable. It was very realistic, and the voice made me believe that it could be truely happening. I also found the author did a really good job of giving simple daily events a greater signification.

I’d love to read another book by Ishiguro, but I think I would go into the next one with lower expectations. For those who have read another of this books, can you tell me if the things that irritated me are part of his usual style, or if they are specific to this book?

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8 responses to “Review : Never let me go”

  1. Amanda says :

    This was the second book I read by Ishiguro. I’d read The Unconsoled, which is one of the worst books I’ve ever read, but i was compelled to read this one by friends. It exceeded my expectations, but like you, I liked but didn’t love the book. I thought the “surprise” was obvious right from the beginning (then again, I’ve seen several movies that were nearly just the same as this, so that probably ruined it for me), and I found the majority of the book very plodding in style. The last 50 pages were fast and interesting, but the first 200 (or whatever it was) bored me a lot. It would have gotten 2 stars from me except for that last 50 pages, which brought it up to 3 (I don’t use half stars at this point).

  2. Anna says :

    I haven’t read anything by this author, and if I do, I don’t think I’ll start with this one. Thanks for the review.

  3. lena says :

    As an Ishiguro fan, I can confidently tell you that this is just the way he specifically executed this book. I really enjoyed this one for the very reason you don’t like it – the conversational tone.

    Read a few reviews of his other books before choosing your next one – so far, they’ve all been incredibly different.

  4. Meghan says :

    I don’t think his others will be too different, honestly. I can always tell when I’m reading an Ishiguro. I love his books, though his unreliable narrators do mostly the same thing in all of them. The Remains of the Day is one of my favorite books, though, so if you do read another I highly suggest that one.

  5. claire says :

    Kay, like Meghan, I suggest The Remains of the Day. It’s really good. I’ve read The Unconsoled (it confused me but I was too young then, I plan to reread) and A Pale View of Hills, too. Never Let Me Go I didn’t exactly love, too, when I was reading it. It was too simplistic, I thought. However, now, looking back, I realize that it was in fact effective because of its simplicity, and realize that Ishiguro probably meant it that way. Cathy (or Kathy?, I forget if C or K) would not have been as believable if she talked more naturally or more cleverly like normal people really do. I’ve thought about it and have come to really appreciate the novel after two years, even if I didn’t much the time I read it.

  6. Nymeth says :

    Though I haven’t read this one yet (it’s on the tbr pile), I second Meghan and Claire. The Remains of the Day is an amazing book.

  7. Joanne says :

    That technique of having the narrator address the reader seems like a really tricky one – it either works perfectly or doesn’t. I did find it a bit distracting in this book, and I’ve never read anything else by Ishiguro so I don’t have a suggestion. But if the theme of the story interested you, then I’d suggest trying The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, I just read this last month and loved how the story was similar but from the perspective of adults rather than adolescents.

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  1. Never Let Me Go [Book Review] - my books. my life. - April 27, 2011

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