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Never Let Me Go: A Novelby Kazuo Ishiguro
Set in a (barely?) alternate England in the late 1990s, Never Let Me Go is the sum of Kathy's memories. Kathy is one of many "donors" who have been brought into being for purposes that, while well-intended, can come to no good. Ishiguro's novel touches on the issues surrounding human cloning and identity and "what if." Then again, human clones are nothing new. Know any identical twins? They may be clones of one another, but that doesn't preclude them from having discrete selves. Never Let Me Go doesn't put science on trial; rather, it takes humans to task on the willful, too-prevalent misuse and misunderstanding of science to further parochial, sad ends.
Ishiguro's prose has never failed to dazzle me, and this novel is certainly no exception. With a near stillness, a quiet passivity, Ishiguro's narrator tells the story of her and her two friends' eerie predestined fate; a fate that echoes throughout novels such as The Handmaid's Tale and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. What is revealed here is an important, wistful meditation on life and society. His books are marvels astonishing works of art.
This is the kind of book that captures you so completely you find yourself reading it at work with the book covering your keyboard, hoping no one notices but also not really caring if you get fired. It's a subtle sci-fi story about youth, freedom, and a lot of other good stuff — too much more about the plot might take something away from the magical, transformative experience of reading it. Instead, I will say that the honest way Never Let Me Go deals with love and disappointment makes it a book that anyone who ever plans to love another person should probably read immediately.
"Never Let Me Go is a fantasy so mundanely told, so excruciatingly ordinary in transit, its fantastic elements so smothered in the loam of the banal and so deliberately grounded, that the effect is not just of fantasy made credible or lifelike, but of the real invading fantasy, bursting into its eccentricity and claiming it as normal. Given that Ishiguro's new novel is explicitly about cloning, that it is, in effect, a science fiction set in the present day, and that the odds against success in this mode are bullyingly stacked, his success in writing a novel that is at once speculative, experimental, and humanly moving is almost miraculous." James Wood, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
"The beauty in this novel must be carefully distinguished from its power to distress. Ultimately, there is a connection: the depth and quality of the relationships between Kath, Tommy and Ruth certainly accentuate the cruelty of their deaths. From under the shadow of their fate, Ishiguro draws warmly compelling vignettes of love and friendship that cumulatively establish an urgent and engrossing narrative pace." Ruth Scurr, Times Literary Supplement (read the entire Times Literary Supplement)
"Suffice it to say that Ishiguro serves up the saddest, most persuasive science fiction you'll read....With its fantastic, inky bleakness, Never Let Me Go itself mutates the meaning of 'Ishiguroish,' or 'Ishiguroesque,' or whatever epithet sticks to this wonderful writer." Joseph O'Neill, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
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 human.
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.
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.
"Perfect pacing and infinite subtlety.... A masterpiece of craftsmanship that offers an unparalleled emotional experience. Send a copy to the Swedish Academy." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Ishiguro's elegant prose and masterly ways with characterization make for a lovely tale of memory, self-understanding, and love." Library Journal (starred review)
"In this luminous offering, [Ishiguro] nimbly navigates the landscape of emotion — the inevitable link between present and past and the fine line between compassion and cruelty, pleasure and pain." Booklist
"A page turner and a heartbreaker, a tour de force of knotted tension and buried anguish.” Time
“A Gothic tour de force....A tight, deftly controlled story....Just as accomplished [as The Remains of the Day] and, in a very different way, just as melancholy and alarming.” The New York Times
"Elegaic, deceptively lovely....As always, Ishiguro pulls you under." Newsweek
“Superbly unsettling, impeccably controlled....The book’s irresistible power comes from Ishiguro’s matchless ability to expose its dark heart in careful increments.” Entertainment Weekly
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
About the Author
Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954 and now lives in London, England. Each of his understated, finely wrought novels has been published to international acclaim. He was in both of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists anthologies, and won the Booker Prize at thirty-four for Remains of the Day.
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