For August, I’m participating in Read My Own Books Month, hosted by Michelle at That’s What She Read.
Source: I’m not sure where I picked this up. Used bookstore? Bookins?
Rating: 8 out of 10
Publisher: Random House Audio
Pages: 288 (print version)
Synopsis (from School Library Journal): The elegance of Ishiguro’s prose and the pitch-perfect voice of his narrator conspire to usher readers convincingly into the remembered world of Hailsham, a British boarding school for special students. The reminiscence is told from the point of view of Kathy H., now 31, whose evocation of the sheltered estate’s sunlit rolling hills, guardians, dormitories, and sports pavilions is imbued with undercurrents of muted tension and foreboding that presage a darker reality. As an adult, Kathy re-engages in lapsed friendships with classmates Ruth and Tommy, examining the details of their shared youth and revisiting with growing awareness the clues and anecdotal evidence apparent to them even as youngsters that they were different from everyone outside.
Overall Impression: Do you ever start reading something thinking it was going to be one kind of story and then it ends up that it’s a completely different genre than you expected? For some reason, I thought Never Let Me Go was in the “boarding school” genre — A Separate Peace, Old School, Prep, etc. I think that’s why it sat on my shelf for so long — I like a good boarding school story, but I never long for one.
And it is…sort of. But really, it’s dystopian. And y’all know I love myself a good dystopian novel!
It’s hard to review this without giving away some key plot points. I will say that Never Let Me Go was not a typical dystopian. There was no “We will fight! We will survive! We will overcome!” Ishiguro crafts his characters with a quiet resignation that is absolutely haunting. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth don’t know that they even have the option to fight. They just live the lives they’ve been given, and this makes it altogether sad and beautiful. The plot meanders along, sliding back and forth between the past and the present. Bits of the larger story are revealed throughout the book, and the reader never really has an “a-ha!” moment. It’s more that you come to an understanding along the way of what’s happening behind the scenes, and then you get freaked out because…it could be real someday.
Still, there was something missing for me. I’ve tried to put my finger on it, and I think it’s that because of Ishiguro’s extremely controlled writing, I had a hard time connecting with the characters, particularly Ruth and Tommy.
Narration: For this book, Roslyn Landor was pitch perfect. She nailed that controlled resignation in a smooth, quiet way that was ideal for this novel.
Positives: Ishiguro is another one of those writers who can craft a sentence that makes me want to cry because it’s so beautiful. He also takes the genre and molds it into something different from others I’ve read.
Negatives: I found it difficult to empathize with the characters.
Other books I’ve read by Kazuo Ishiguro: The Remains of the Day
Other books I’ve listened to narrated by Roslyn Landor: Swapping Lives by Jane Green
Other blogger opinions:
Bookishly Fabulous: I felt that what Ishiguro did with this novel was groundbreaking in that he did not write a book about a plucky youngster who will not give up until they escape their dubious fate. He wrote about the people who accept their fate because they don’t know any other way of life.”
My Books. My Life.: “What I found was something that was very good but didn’t quite live up to that expectation of amazing.”
The Broke and the Bookish: “Without saying too much, this book would be an excellent platform to talk about some ethical issues and it raises many questions that I’ve found myself asking before.”
Bibliofreak: “Some readers might find the plot twists a little predictable, but the real beauty is in the perfectly observed psychology of the central characters and the significance for one’s own life.”