Book 12: Never Let Me Go (By Kazuo Ishiguro)
Courtesy of Shiv, via Flickr.
Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre: Dystopia, literary adult fiction
Summary: A first-person narrative, from the POV of Kath, a clone built for organ-harvesting of this dystopian world. But it isn’t really about that, the sci-fi, dystopian part of this book. There are no over-blown struggles against the system, no heroic triumph or fall. It’s a tranquil narrative, written as memories, Kath looking back on what happened and interlocking those with some of her after thoughts about it. Ultimately, with the risk of sounding corny, it’s a book about hope.
Eaten thru on: June 5th, 2013
In 3 Nouns: Impact. Shock. Hope.
In 3 Adjectives: Simplistic. Subtle. Unsuspecting.
WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. Proceed at your own personal risk.
The Good: I had all but forgotten that they were clones (perhaps an indication that the movement in this book was partial successful until it collapsed) made to grow and sustain organs for others, much like plants which we harvest food from. It wasn’t about a hero struggling to fight against the injustice imposed on them, like in Brave New World or 1984. It was about three people in the system, trying to live out their lives normally, or as normal as they know it. They don’t worry about how cruel and unfair the system is, their worries are around pencil cases, cassette tapes, memories and friendship. They are the people apart from the “hero”. Ordinary beings living in the system, not consciously fighting it. This alien perspective had the effect of a slow onset of shock for me. When reading dystopian novels with a struggling hero against the system, I never stopped to think about the other thousands of people who weren’t the hero, who weren’t fighting for justice, who were just trying to live their lives. Strange enough, I find nothing wrong with that because I would be one of them. I am one of them in our current-day dystopia. I get more upset over having to wait in a line than I do about the oppressive regime of North Korea. That’s how many people live and react.
The simplicity with which Ishiguro wrote was another great technique. There weren’t a great deal of politics, jargon, and what-nots bogging down the story. It was told from an ordinary (well, she wasn’t really that ordinary, even among the “students”) girl’s perspective in that system, and the ordinary language made for a perfect fit. However, just like the unremarkable objects the characters fussed over, the simple narrative is extremely deceptive in that as you went further and further into the book, you become increasingly aware of the incredible depth of emotions and concepts that lied behind seemingly small, insignificant (to almost a laughable degree) things. But even then, you weren’t sure. And then, BAM! It hits you hard in the face, the truth behind all that simplicity. Suddenly, everything is significant. Suddenly, everything is different. At the beginning, it was a plain, somewhat confusing recalling of events by Kath, but by the end, my god, the range of emotions and truths that sprung up on the reader was absolutely mind-numbing. There was a kind of chill that ran through me when the truth was finally revealed.
Throughout Part 1 and 2, I had a simmering hatred for Ruth. I couldn’t understand why Kath remained friends with her, why she stayed so loyal. And when I saw that Kath stayed a carer while Ruth was on her way toward completing, I felt a triumph rising through me. But then, the moment Ruth apologized on that roadside stop, my every animosity toward her evaporated and my eyes brimmed with tears of forgiveness and regret. That’s the power of redemption, I supposed. Tommy, I have always sympathized with. But his inability to free himself from Ruth’s control made me frustrated. But, of course Ruth had this innate authority and ability to manipulate that, so it probably was difficult for someone like Tommy to break free from.
This type of dystopian novel is unlike the hero-based ones. It is subtly powerful in its immensely relatable quality. I greatly enjoyed and wept over it.
The Not-So-Splendid: Kath’s narrative sometime lost me because she likes to jump back and forth between different times. Although, I can’t really complain too much because that’s how memory works. You remember something and then suddenly, that memory triggers another one that’s otherwise completely segregated by and unrelated in time.
Apples: 5/5 (Only fitting for a novel that was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize)
Best Enjoyed: In silence and solitude. You will need it to contemplate all the exquisitely interwoven emotions, memories and the different types of hope that gradually reveal themselves.
Next bookworm target: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides