I was lucky enough to have the next title in my Sixty-Five Books You Absolutely Positively Must Read in Your Twenties and During Your Peace Corps Service to Better Yourself and Use Time Wisely Challenge (as pulled from this list, inspired by Buzzfeed) already set and in my Kindle for reading.
I had heard of this selection, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, before and to be totally frank, if it hadn’t popped up on this list, I don’t think I would have ever explored it.
Let’s be honest here, team, the title makes it seem like an early 2000s rom-com starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. or, maybe, Julia Stiles (or maybe both! Could you even imagine?!) You know my attitude towards all things mushy or annoying, so I wasn’t too keen to begin based on the title alone. However, it was a Man Booker Prize finalist, and I love me some postcolonial literature, so begin AND finish I did.
What’s It All About?
While my last selection moved at lightening pace in and out of characters and times and places, Never Let Me Go works supremely in the opposite realm. We are immediately introduced to the narrator, Kathy H.; while other characters make appearances, we see everything through Kathy’s perspective and it is truly her story and her story alone we are following.
The novel appears as a confession Kathy passes along to a knowing audience. While at first it seems to be a typical young girl’s coming-of-age-story, the novel slowly introduces disconcerting details about her life as a student at Hailsham: she prides herself on being a great carer for her donors; she slips in details of her work and how she soon will have the resting time she needs; she talks of friends who have completed – especially the feisty Ruth and the comforting Tommy – recalling them fondly and with a knowing conviction they have done their duty in life and she soon will, too.
Who is exactly is Kathy H.? Where does she live and what is her life’s work? Never Let Me Go is one of those novels where both nothing and everything happen, slowly building into a moving story set in a distant yet frighteningly recognizable lifetime.
Does it deserve to be one of Sixty-Five Books You Absolutely Positively Must Read in Your Twenties?
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a pretty cool book. But other than a few mentions of s-e-x and a slightly callous attitude to all it involves, I would easily consider this to be a young adult novel; I could totally see including this in a dystopia unit and a lot of my students loving the crap right out of it.
Personally, I couldn’t wait to let it go and be finished with Kathy’s long and lamentable tale. I enjoy a good fright, but this book was wholly predictable and the dialogue often made me want to toss my cookies.
Maybe I am just too much of a Grinch, because I can see what other’s might see in this story, and it is an interesting tale, but one that I have heard many times before and in infinitely better ways. It reminded me A LOT of the novel The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. In all instances, I find that to be a far superior novel and I would definitely replace Never Let Me Go with Matteo’s tale.
I do, however, recognize the value of the story and why it was included in this age-specific, life-encouraging list. It certainly caused me to question my role and just what exactly I am meant to do, especially considering the short span of life. It’s a moving love story and a slow-paced look into life and romance and bravery – you can’t go wrong with that.
Any great passages or phrases outlined and loved?
What I did like about this novel was how straightforward much of the dialogue and expressions came across. When Kathy talked about awkward teenage encounters and personal feelings, I often found myself nodding, thinking I knew exactly how she felt. At the same time, strange and disturbing events occur, so it is a little unnerving to relate so easily. Like the following:“As she came to a halt, I glanced quickly at her face – as did the others, I’m sure. And I can still see it now, the shudder she seemed to be suppressing, the real dread that one of us would accidentally brush against her. And though we just kept on walking, we all felt it; it was like we’d walked from the sun right into chilly shade. Ruth had been right: Madame was afraid of us. But she was afraid of us in the same way someone might be afraid of spiders. We hadn’t been ready for that. It had never occurred to us to wonder how we would feel, being seen like that, being the spiders.”
Overall thoughts and conclusions?
I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. If you get the chance – I say go for it. Especially if you enjoy this genre of alternative realities/dystopia/future sci-fi/etc. It’s a quick read and an easily enjoyable, though I just would never consider it in my favorites.
And on to number three!