jess's Reviews > Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
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's review
Aug 18, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2011, audiobook-d, fiction
Read from June 22 to 26, 2011

I thought I wanted to see the movie before I wrote about this book, but then I changed my mind. This is perfect and pure.

In my mind, there is no way this book could be improved on by any editorial hand, any vast reach of creative impulse, a change in pace or improved character development. This book is so strange and uncomfortable, so unbelievably human and also unbelievably inhuman in tandem. This is a delicate, tender morsel. This book has flavor and mouthiness and unknowable depths haunted by unimaginable demons. This book is extraordinary.

Also, have you seen that TV series, DOLLHOUSE? If you have, we could have a very interesting conversation about agency, consent, humanity, etc. I always try to be my best.

I feel so embarrassingly tender and vulnerable about this book. I feel like someone is going to laugh at my big, big feelings about this book. At the same time, it has set my heart on fire and I have to make a note so I can remember.

Problem: My feelings are so big about this book, it has taken me months to cobble this together.
Solution: Make a list.

Here are the top things I liked about this book:

1. This book seems like it could be happening right now. Like, what if there are these children growing up in schools like Hailsham RIGHT NOW? (I am freaking out about this. I want to believe and I am horrified to believe, and also: the potential for a new social justice movement?) The setting is not a dream world. There is no fuzzy border around the perspective to make you feel like this could be fake. It is so current and real. It is inescapable. What are we capable of?

2. The children's collections are such a weird, fascinating, human detail for Ishiguro to provide. The children have no sense of personal property or ownership except for the handmade art and trinkets that they buy off their friends. They are encouraged to keep, grow, organize, and maintain their collections. This just spoke to me on a very subliminal level, like being a kid and having these treasures but also being a marginalized or non-important person and having these artifacts to anchor your life, experiences and memories. And how Kathy H keeps her collection into adulthood and Ruth sheds hers when they leave Hailsham. SO INTERESTING. I loved this element.

3. This book is about so many big ideas, but it doesn't get caught up in philosophizing or theorizing. It felt like a person's experience, a set of evolving emotions and knowledge, but not a diatribe. I mean, this book is about a marginalized group of people being preyed upon by society-at-large based on an inherited, uncontrollable genetic circumstance. As deep lez as I get sometimes, I felt so grateful that this book did not get caught up in pedantic questions about right or wrong. Kathy H's voice is so clear and precise that the readers' conclusions are preordained. There is no other way you could feel about it when you find out that Ruth wants to work in an office. That is so poignant, but the whole thing is so sparse that it's not annoying, cloying or cheesy. She wants to work in an office, and she can't. She never will. Fuck.

4. The status quo does silent, everyday damage and violence against people you care about. By participating and playing her part, Kathy H is contributing to some really horrific betrayal. But she's good at her job. She likes being good at her job. It's the job she's meant to do. The moments where she lingers on the idea of getting out/getting away, and the she just... doesn't. It's like that phenomenon I talk about -- the world is a horrifying, horrible place. corporations and governments are doing horrible things all day every day, in your name, with your money. They are cutting down forests and killing people. Factory farms exist. We're stuck in an endless cycle of war. Your alarm goes off. You get up and go to work. You come home and make dinner. You are not burning anything in the streets. You are paying your taxes. This inertia (which I was so obsessed with when I wrote about that Derrick Jensen book three years ago) is a crime against your best self and yet it is like water flowing to the sea.

And finally, I love the boat wreck. I love it as a destination for the Hailsham kids. It is just so beautiful and broken. It reminded me of my visit to the Peter Iredale shipwreck on my twenty eighth birthday.

If you read this whole thing, I love you for it. XOXO.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Elaine (new) - added it

Elaine Nelson "This inertia [...] is a crime against your best self and yet it is like water flowing to the sea." YES. (dammit, now I have to stop myself from tearing up.)

Beth Bonini The fact that the characters submit to their fate so entirely was deeply disturbing to me, but reading your review makes me realise that this was probably the most brilliant part of the book.

Beth Bonini The fact that the characters submit to their fate so entirely was deeply disturbing to me, but reading your review makes me realise that this was probably the most brilliant part of the book.

lucy by the sea I really like your review, sums up a lot of how I feel bout this book too. Have you seen the film now? do you think you will? I liked the film as well but I wish I had read the book first.

jess I did watch the film. I liked it well enough, but I felt like it was a fraction as powerful as the book. A lot of what was important to me happened in Kathy H's head. That doesn't often translate well to movies.

lucy by the sea Yeah, I hated that when I read the book I saw Keira Knightly and Carey Mulligan not my own idea of Kathy H and Ruth. Have you read any of his other stuff?

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