Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Review: Never Let Me Go

Author : Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre : Dystopian Fiction
Rating : 7.5/10
"I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold on to each other, holding on as fast as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart. That’s how I think it is with us. It’s a shame, because we’ve loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can’t stay together forever." 

When you pick up a book that's been called one of the best of the decade, loved by critics and readers alike, and been praised to high heavens, there are only two ways to go about it. You either read it with a detached sense of skepticism, or with the uncritical acceptance that seeks only to experience, and not to judge. Whichever be the case, Ishiguro does not disappoint.

Based in mid-90's England, Never Let Me Go is the story of three students studying at a sheltered boarding school called Hailsham. Narrated by one of them, the novel describes their lives right from their childhood, to the fate that they came to meet eventually, as adults. Most of the story is bound through a series of flashbacks, chronologically depicting specific incidents in the said timeline. The narrative meticulously details the lives of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy at Hailsham, during their formative years, as teenagers, and thereon.

Given my fascination for all things dystopian, I had some very good reasons to give this one a try. However, by the time I read through half of it, I found countless more. Ishiguro is exactly the kind of literary talent that leaves you with a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, for days to come. The narrative unfolds bit by bit, layer by layer... gradually uncovering the horrifying truth that lies beneath. The subtle, understated manner of writing is almost conspicuous in its simplicity. The tone of it is actually more disconcerting than the content itself. 

Reading through the book, I found myself continually drawing parallels with Murakami's Norwegian Wood. Considering the ethnic background both authors share, I don't know if it's entirely coincidental that I found them to have a similar style of writing. The same understated elegance, simplicity that is noticeable only by virtue of its severity, and even the manner of character-development. Most of all, I was struck by how both books leave you with an overpowering sense of helplessness. It's like the story winds itself around you, pulling you in so deep that you become a part of it. Then, through its equally subtle twists and turns, leaves you positively devastated. And somewhere between the disturbing truth and the false hopes, the reader just might chance upon what the book truly is about - the realization of everything that is not what it could have been. 


Riddhi G.D said...

So true. I like your review, it's pretty much impossible to say more about this book and cover it all. I read this right before my finals, when it was snowing continuously. Did not help. The fact that I aim to get into medical research did not help either >.<

Tangled up in blue... said...

I like your review of the book also. I was expecting to be underwhelmed by it, becoz I thought it was going to be obvious like most dystopian fiction is, but it creeps up on you, it is so delicately told. It really got under my skin, like you said, for days.

And like good dystopian fiction should, or rather like all good fiction should, it made me wonder what it really meant to be human. It was the first book by Ishiguro that I'd read, and I had only seen The Remains of the Day on the telly. But I am fascinated by his writing now. As for Murakami's books, I havent read Norwegian Wood yet and after reading Kafka on the Shore, I am not sure if I liked it or not, understood it or not.

I always enjoy your book reviews, Sherry. :)

Sherry Wasandi said...

@Riddhi: Thanks, for dropping by, and the comment.

Sure, the book is somewhat morose. But more of a "sullen-morose", as opposed to a "depressing-morose". I suppose it's the first kind that's bound to haunt all the more.

@Tangled up in blue: Rightly said. I have not read Kafka on the Shore, but I do think Norwegian Wood is definitely worth a read. It's one of the few books around that deserve every bit of the praise they get.

Also, thank you. :)

JD said...

Must give it a shot!

Antara said...

I'm not quite fond of dystopian fiction but I'll give this one a try. The review is quite lovely.