Shoshana, April 18, 2010 (view all comments by Shoshana)
This melancholic novel is science fiction to the extent that it is an alternate 1980s (more or less). In some ways this is an ultimate British novel, the kind I would read as an adolescent and wonder, what just happened? what gave offense? why has this relationship suddenly ended? It was all too subtle for me, and Ishiguro turns that subtle, squeamish sensibility into a determinant in the book's action. The students have been slowly but clearly taught their duty, but they don't think about this much, or question it, or really even talk about it. Thus, theme #1 is about inevitability and the passivity of a British underclass.
Theme #2: Throughout, the pervasive, underlying question of what gives a life its meaning. Like the students in Lev Grossman's dyspeptic The Magicians, the Hailsham students find that being a special student at a special school does not necessarily prepare you to do anything. The Hailsham students grasp for straws of meaning where they can--in the teacher's words, in made-up narratives about the teachers and each other, in their relationships, and in their interpretations of Hailsham's policies. Ultimately, none of it matters. Again, this is all excruciatingly understated, but definitely present. It certainly contrasts with the intense anger expressed by writers in formerly colonized countries, who go to school only to discover that the promise of freedom is a lie, and that their opportunities and options are not equal. That the narrator of Never Let Me Go is reasonably happy with her life is more chilling than any other aspect of this wonderfully realized novel.
laura.carper, January 2, 2010 (view all comments by laura.carper)
I chose this book at Powell's after reading a review of it (which I rarely do) and was extremely pleased. The quiet impact of the writing stayed with me for days and still evokes a mood when I catch sight of it on my bookshelf. (More high praise - I rarely keep the books I read). It also led me to seek out more of Ishiguro's work.
Stuart Howard, January 2, 2010 (view all comments by Stuart Howard)
This luminous, delicate, considerate, gentle, and deeply moving novel edged out "The Road" as my favorite novel of the first decade of the 21st century. Surprising, riveting, warm, intimate, lyrical, compassionate, and so, so sad. I'll never forget the sequence in which the narrator recalls herself as a little girl, alone in her room singing the eponymous song to herself.....
Simon Jeremiah, January 2, 2010 (view all comments by Simon Jeremiah)
Here is a profound and moving account of a
not-so-future time when body parts are removed from clones, specially raised for this purpose.
It goes to the heart of prejudice. . . .
roohbaroo, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by roohbaroo)
This was the first Ishiguro that I read and it was an intense, amazing reading experience. I remember where I was while I read it; I stayed up to finish it, not caring that I was bleary-eyed at work. I even remember the music I was listening to when I read it. It's that kind of book. And after that, I read everything Ishiguro has written. "Remains of the Day" may be better - but it's hard to compare them, they're so different.
Vintage Books USA -
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.
"Review A Day"
by James Wood, The New Republic,
"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." (read the entire New Republic review)
"Review A Day"
by Ruth Scurr, Times Literary Supplement,
"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." (read the entire Times Literary Supplement)
"Review A Day"
by Joseph O'Neill, The Atlantic Monthly,
"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." (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
by Kirkus Reviews (starred review),
"Perfect pacing and infinite subtlety.... A masterpiece of craftsmanship that offers an unparalleled emotional experience. Send a copy to the Swedish Academy."
by Library Journal (starred review),
"Ishiguro's elegant prose and masterly ways with characterization make for a lovely tale of memory, self-understanding, and love."
"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."
"A page turner and a heartbreaker, a tour de force of knotted tension and buried anguish.”
by The New York Times,
“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.”
"Elegaic, deceptively lovely....As always, Ishiguro pulls you under."
by Entertainment Weekly,
“Superbly unsettling, impeccably controlled....The book’s irresistible power comes from Ishiguro’s matchless ability to expose its dark heart in careful increments.”
by Random House,
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
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.