Saturday, January 23, 2010

Never Let Me Go : Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro

I've never read Ishiguro's apparent classic The Remains of the Day and the local library didn't have that, but they did have one of his later novels, Never Let Me Go, so I sprung for that instead.

And I found it to be quite engrossing and ended up finishing it the day after I started reading it.  There's actually a review quote on the back by the NYTimes book Review, which states "[Ishiguro is] Not only a good writer but a wonderful novelist," which I think sums up nicely a couple of good points of this work.

First, the writing is well-done.  For example, the first section of the novel focused on the middle-school/high-school life of the protagonist and narrator, Kathy and other main characters.  And I found that the worries, ideas and dialogue of these characters in this section particularly reminded of female friends/classmates from my own middle-school/high-school life, in that he seemed to get the perspective of not only kids of that age right, but also particularly a female perspective.

I must admit that I initially found this scoped perspective to be a bit over-simplistic and worried whether whether this was a novel geared more for young adults, but as things progressed, the significance of the simple joys and dramas really shine through.  It isn't a simple glossed-over idealistic vision of that period in one's life.

I will note that Ishiguro has a trick that he uses throughout the novel.  It is narrated in hind-site by the protagonist, Kathy, and numerous times, he describes an event, then makes a leading statement to the significance of the event in the next chapter.  For example:
We started to walk back towards the main house then and I waited for her to explain what she meant, but she didn't.  I found out though over the next several days.
For one, it propelled the story forward, perhaps explaining why I breezed through the book.  But relating to more the "wonderful novelist" portion of the earlier quote, it allows Ishiguro to gradually crescendo the feel that a much larger and menacing context surrounds the initial facts being presented and constantly has the feel that a some sort of science/societal ethics question is about to be revealed.

The latter sections describe the characters developing beyond their school years and that initial time spent describing the joys, events, and relationships of the characters during their school gives weight and emotional impact to latter events and the end-reveal.

The only qualm I had and I am trying not to spoil the story, was that the ethical quandary in question seemed like a bit of a strawman situation.  Perhaps the best parallel to describe this would be certain Hollywood movies show a small, individual business-owner with heart and humanity, struggling against unshown, but absolutely heartless employees of a mega-corporation.  Well, I hate to break it to you, but every company is run by people with their own idiosyncrasies and human concerns.  There doesn't really exist a company with simplistic, evil motives.

In any case, the minor qualm aside, it was quite an enjoyable novel and I can picture myself reading another Ishiguro's novels in the future.