Progress! [Two of Sixty-Five]

10 Sep

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?

Meh. Perhaps.

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!

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5 Responses to “Progress! [Two of Sixty-Five]”

  1. Allyson Loomis September 10, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    Really, REMAINS OF THE DAY is Katzu Ishiguro’s best book by a long stretch. Not to give you another book to read….xoxo

    • livjnelson September 11, 2013 at 1:44 am #

      I would LOVE to try it! I have also heard great things about this… my list has already grown to like 90, I swear…

  2. Nancy Farmer September 10, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Dear Liv, I’m glad you noticed the similarity between my book, The House of the Scorpion, and Never Let Me Go. Scorpion was published before NLMG and I have always suspected the theme was poached. It happens quite a lot in publishing and has happened to me before, sometimes skating quite close to plagiarism. Sigh. Good luck on your Peace Corps assignment. I was in one of the first groups and went to India. You will need lots of things to cheer yourself up because being immersed in another culture, even a likable one, is stressful. Having this blog is an excellent idea.
    All the best, Nancy Farmer

    • livjnelson September 11, 2013 at 1:53 am #

      Ms. Farmer, I can’t even express how much I geeked out finding a reply from you on my little blog! Thank you for the considerate post and kind words. I can’t tell you how much I have appreciated your novels. My students and I have spent many great hours discussing House of the Scorpion – we just love it!

      I am so pleased to hear you have served in the Peace Corps; much respect for your service! Thank you for the words of encouragement – I have already found writing this blog and this book challenge to be a wonderful way for me to relax and stay committed to sharing these experiences with family and new friends.

      Thanks again!

  3. Holly September 11, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    I also geeked out when I noticed Nancy Farmer commented on your post!! How neat. Again, living through you.

    My book club JUST read this book for bookclub! We basically came to the same conclusion…okay book and idea but probably could have been written better by a different author. I’m glad you mentioned House of the Scorpion and how much you liked it. It has now been added to my book list and I also plan on mentioning this book to my bookclub.

    Hope the start of your real work is going well!

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