ANNOUNCEMENT My housemate and I were attacked whilst riding bikes around South City on Friday night. After giving our statement to the police they told us there’s been 13 reported assaults (also my friend was robbed and my next door neighbor’s house was broken into all on Friday night). I know not all of you are St Louis based but if you are please stay safe out there folks.
Just before leaving the UK a friend of mine, a fellow foreigner (I being American, her Thai), gave me a few books that she’d read and didn’t want to take home with her when her time came. My friend she described this and another book, The Pesthouse by Jim Crace (which I will also be writing a review about), as “the kind of book that when you finish it, you want to toss it against a wall”. I’m not entirely sure what she meant by that, whether she meant she liked or disliked them so much to cause a burst of such passion but these books did evoke a strong emotional response, one in each direction (one good, one poor). Originally I was planning to do a double review both books seem to tell similar stories but I ultimately nixed the idea because I found I had too much to say about each book.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is what I call a “light dystopian” novel or a novel where the dystopian aspect isn’t entirely prominent in the story’s setting but still plays a vital role in the plot.(1) The story follows a trio of friends (Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy) from childhood in a boarding school to adulthood in a narrative that can be equally classified equally as an coming of age or mystery or love story.
The dystopia angle of this book wasn’t clear to me from the beginning as it took me until about chapter 7 (p70 – 81) to appreciate what was happening and why, however I believe that subtlety is intentional in Ishiguro’s enigmatic stream of consciousness type writing style presented in Never Let Me Go. Ishiguro’s attention to detail from the chapter lengths nearly all being a measured 10 pages in length(2) to his ability to weave extremely non-linear story without losing narrative focus is extremely impressive.
I’m going to be honest: I didn’t fall in love with this book right away but what gripped me from the beginning was Ishiguro’s drumhead tight prose and conversational style that feels so very casual, as if Kathy is just having a conversation with the reader about her memories, that a trick is played where it looks as if storytelling is an effortless endevour that anyone who’s ever told a story can embark on. However now that I’ve finished the book, in the process it wrung a pint of tears from my eyes, I realise that my reluctance to love this book didn’t come from any lack of quality or resonance but that like the characters in this book, I was holding on to previous feelings about the last book I read (The Pesthouse) and not letting myself be entirely receptive to what Never Let Me Go could offer until it was nearly over. I say this with intention of being the highest of compliments: I will be re-reading this book at least a couple more times.
- Contrast this with a “heavy dystopian” novel such as The Road by Cormic McCarthy and the distinction becomes clear (or so I hope).
- This technique adds to the subtle power of the style by reinforcing expectations for each chapter to be a specific length which when that pattern is broken in later chapters leaves an unconscious impression on the reader.